On May 16, polling day for the Kerala Assembly election, voters turned out in high numbers, recording the state’s highest-ever turnout at 77.35%. This marked a 2.23% jump from the figure recorded for the 2011 polls, meeting the expectations of election officials. Despite heavy rain in a few parts of the southern state, voters ventured out to polling booths to exercise their franchise – Kozhikode recorded the highest turnout at 81.89%, while the lowest was in Pathanamthitta at 71.66%.
In the fray
The fate of 1,203 candidates lay in the hands of an electorate of 3.4 crore voters. In a triangular contest in the state, candidates competed for 140 seats. The three-way battle in Kerala is among the Congress-led United Democratic Front, the Left Democratic Front, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is a relative newcomer in the state.
For the ruling UDF, headed by incumbent Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, election day came amid two controversies – scrutiny in connection with the solar scam, in which Chandy was implicated, and criticism for the way investigation was conducted into the brutal rape and murder of a Dalit woman. If the UDF does win, it will be the first party in Kerala to retain power for two successive terms. It would also give the Congress a chance to stage a comeback after an abysmal loss in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP, which contested 24 seats in the Assembly, launched an extensive campaign this time around, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh and party president Amit Shah, addressing election rallies in the state. The party is expected to cut into a share of votes of both the UDF and the LDF, which have alternated a position of power in Kerala, so far.
After its narrow loss to the UDF in the last Assembly polls, the LDF is looking to regain power in the state. The party, headed by former chief minister VS Achuthanandan, needs a 71 majority to form government.
Most exit polls predicted a win for the LDF, while one forecast a hung Assembly. This will mean another power swap in the Kerala.
2011 Assembly election
The 13th state Assembly election held on April 13, 2011, was one of the closest ever contests in Kerala. The UDF had defeated the LDF by four seats. More than 2.2 crore voters were on the electoral rolls, and they chose from among 971 candidates.