It was not the debacle in Thrikkakara, a pocket borough of the Congress, that rattled the Left Democratic Front (LDF) – more specifically the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] – when the outcome of the fiercely-fought bypoll became known on Friday. Its agony stemmed from the ‘enormity’ of the defeat, which was in stark contrast to the thoroughgoing campaign led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself.
The LDF had not left any stone unturned in its attempt to turn the tide in its favour, but could do nothing to slow, let alone stop, the United Democratic Front (UDF) juggernaut in its tracks. The defeat is, therefore, being read, also because it coincides with the first anniversary of the second LDF government led by Mr. Vijayan, as an appraisal of the government’s performance and a rejection of the SilverLine question on which the government had invested heavily and aggressively, rather unwittingly.
The party has sought consolation in the modest increase in the number of votes polled by the LDF candidate compared to the 2021 Assembly election when a LDF wave notwithstanding, the front fared poorly in Thrikkakara following which its campaign manager faced the sack.
By fielding a professional, the party had expected to gain the support of a section of the ‘apolitical’ voters, who had rallied behind the Kitex-backed Twenty20 party in Thrikkakara in 2021. As it turns out, the bunch moved en bloc to side with the UDF in the absence of Twenty20 or AAP in the fray.
“There was a consolidation of anti-LDF and ‘impartial’ votes,” said a senior CPI(M) leader, who admitted that factors such as Mr. Vijayan’s belligerent stance on the SilverLine project would have contributed to it.
The resounding win cemented Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan’s position as the spearhead of the Congress outside the floor of the Assembly as well. Signs of the balance of power within the Congress tilting in his favour were visible as soon as the early trends came out on Friday. But Mr. Satheesan, who led the UDF campaign, chose to play his cards right by ascribing the credit to everyone and maintained that he would not be carried away.
In hindsight, that some senior leaders jumped ship in the run up to the polls proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Congress, which was desperate for a win, as it propelled the ordinary workers to work overtime and methodically.
For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which fielded its State vice president and banked heavily on former legislator P.C. George, accused of making anti-Muslim remarks, in the final hours of the campaign, the drubbing could not have been worse as it polled less votes than a less-known NDA candidate had in 2021 and forfeited the security deposit.