Friday, May 27, 2016

Will VS stay out?

The electoral story in Kerala is actually two stories. First, the headline. As usual, the LDF defeated the incumbent UDF government of Oomen Chandy almost 2-to-1, as has been the norm in Kerala. Indeed, in 2011, this was almost broken by the veteran communist VS Achuthanandan's spirited campaign, but Chandy obviously was not going to achieve that. The Left's victory did not surprise anybody, although P Vijayan's rise as the CM did. The question will be whether Vijayan can hope to have the party behind him, or will VS act as a thorn on his feet for the next five years?

The Congress ideally should think deeply about its loss and the massive corruption scandals that have hit it. Nationwide, the party has become synonymous with corruption and minority appeasement, and nowhere it is more glaring than in Kerala. And despite Shashi Tharoor's attempts at painting a rosy picture over it, the rot is there for everyone to see. However, idealism is not how the Congress runs, and they will most likely shrug it off and wait to win in 2021. However, they should look at what happened in neighboring Tamil Nadu and realize that their victory is not guaranteed in a changing Indian political landscape.

Now, that's the main story. There is one more thing though, something that would've been impossible just five years ago: Kerala was the only state where the BJP increased its vote share from the 2014 Modi wave, and in the process won its first ever MLA in the Assembly: the veteran warhorse O Rajgopal, who took a good thirty years of defeats (often by tiny margins) to get here. What's more, the party came a close second in many contests, in some cases being defeated by less than 2,000 votes. Never before would this have been even a remote possibility in the state, but the fact is that the BJP has picked up votes from both the LDF and the UDF, and it was the surprising subject of many a election rally. And while it does not have the seats to show for it, its performance is very encouraging. 

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