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Can Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan Defy the Trend Like Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu?



When Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa won the 2016 Assembly election, it was a first in 32 years. AIADMK, under her leadership, had won two Assembly elections consistently, a 2011 success repeated again in the next Assembly election in 2016.

Since 1984, every Assembly election in Tamil Nadu saw a different alliance, led either by DMK or AIADMK, forming the government in the State. Jayalalithaa broke this trend, returning to CM’s office for a second consecutive term in 2016.

Kerala has seen the same trend with each Assembly election since 1980. By that trend, the Congress-led UDF should come back to power this time.

But can the current Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan buck the anti-incumbency trend, like what Jayalalithaa did in Tamil Nadu in 2016?

Can the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF government break the jinx, returning to the office for a second consecutive term after its 2016 Assembly election victory?

What happened in Tamil Nadu was that the population at large was not quite impressed with Jayalalithaa and her government as per a post-poll survey and analysis by CSDS. Her popularity drastically came down to 54% from 71% in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. People saw her getting more arrogant and intolerant against her political rivals. When asked to compare the AIADMK government with the previous DMK government, both parties got almost the same number of respondents in their support. Thus the chances of Jayalalithaa getting back to the power in the second consecutive time were slim.

Yet, she won, and won emphatically when we go by the number of the seats. The AIADMK alliance won 136 seats out of 234 in the state Assembly with 52% vote share. In fact, all the seats in alliance were won by Jayalalithaa’s party only. The other parties only added to the vote share. DMK got 66 more seats than the 23 seats it had got in 2011 with 31.45% vote share. Overall, the DMK alliance won 98 seats with 41.89% vote share.

So, what was the big differentiator between the two parties?

The answer is women voters.

There were arguments on corruption comparison or the Congress led-debacle or the role of the caste-based smaller parties but as per the CSDS post-poll analysis, it was the backing of the women voters that led Jayalalithaa to election victory. In the 2016 Assembly election, Tamil Nadu had 4 lakh more registered women voters than men. Overall, 2.16 crore women were registered as voters against 2.12 crore registered male voters.

The CSDS analysis says AIADMK got 10% more women votes than the DMK, ensuring Jayalalithaa’s victory. And women support for Jayalalithaa was across the state, caste, class and demographic variables. Women saw her government less corrupt; they saw Jayalalithaa a better CM, administrator and caring person than DMK’s M. Karunanidhi.

Can Pinarayi Vijayan have such winning edges in his favor in the upcoming Assembly election?

Can women voters help him, especially after Pinarayi Vijayan’s stand favouring entry of women of menstrual age in the Sabarimala Temple?

Or corruption and scam taint and the Sabarimala issue will finally nail him?

That we will come to know with the results of the next Assembly election but going by the results of the recent local body polls, Pinarayi looks better positioned for the upcoming battle.

Despite the Congress’ high decibel campaign, with Congress-led UDF making corruption and gold smuggling and Pinarayi Vijayan’s Sabarimala stand major issues, LDF, in fact, swept the polls, defying the previous trend. In previous local polls in 2010 and 2015, the verdict was against the ruling front and it reflected well in 2011 and 2016 Assembly polls when the Opposition front went on to win the election.

And LDF under Pinarayi Vijayan could do it in just 18 months when it has seen an utter electoral humiliation in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Then, the Congress alone had won 15 seats while Congress-led UDF won 19 out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state with 47.5% vote share while CPIM-led LDF that was reduced to just 31% vote share.

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