Kerala Assembly by-elections-May 2018
by K Vijayachandran
True, it was a big victory for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) but, neither a political nor comprehensive victory as commented on by Gowridasan Nair, senior correspondent of the Hindu. There was massive grassroots level mobilization by the rank and file of CPI(M), the senior partner of LDF: As a result voter turnout increased to 76.3 percent, an increase of more than 2.5 percent, compared to the previous election of 2016.
Even though voter-turnout had increased, BJP votes declined by 18% to around 35,000 votes: Its votes share also experienced a sharp decline. UDF votes increased by 2000, registering a marginal decline in its vote- share. Last time LDF had won with a vote-percentage of 38.3: This has now increased to 44.3 %, giving it a stunning majority.
One may even theorize that UDF did not lose much and it was LDF that gained out of BJP losses, as part of an all-India trend: The massive grassroots level mobilization by the rank and file of CPM has made the best out of this BJP downfall at the national level, with very little initiatives and involvement of its leaders. Christian youth in several localities turned thick friends with their CPI(M) neighbors in large numbers, a simple reversal of the trends that had set-in during the liberation struggle days, six decades ago.
Malayala Manorama, the leading newspaper of the elite classes of Kerala, has theorized in its editorial that the stand taken by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan against the so called Nokku Kooli practiced by CITU have won plenty of votes for LDF. However, the paper was silent on his achievements under the Nava Kerala Mission which had no or little impact whatsoever on the election process.
Improvements in the delivery of primary healthcare and school education, thanks to the involvement of elected panchayats, especially those governed by LDF were greatly appreciated by voters. However, the numerous projects initiated under the Navakerala Mission, directly administered or supervised by the Chief Ministers Office have failed so far to make any impact or catch the imagination of the voters despite massive propaganda.
Complaints about the non-performance or poor performance of Local Self Government Institutions (LSGIs) like panchayats, municipalities, and corporations are too many: Attempts to improve their capability has not delivered results, due to constraints of funds and expertise. These basic constraints as well as indifferent performance of PSUs in infrastructure sector such as KSEBL, KSRTC, KWA, S&T institutions etc were not even debated during this election for obvious reasons: LDF and UDF were responsible for these lapses, and BJP had very little exposure to them.
Law and order continued to be a subject of endless debate even during this election and nobody was interested to debate on the much needed administrative reforms; not even the Administrative Reforms Commission.