It's a repeat of history in Kerala, with the incumbent government being again voted out. Unlike Didi in Bengal and Amma in Tamil Nadu, Congress veteran Oommen Chandy could not avoid a rout in God's own country.The victorious Left Democratic Front (LDF) won 91 seats in Kerala assembly, while the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) had to remain satisfied with just 47 seats in the 140-member assembly. The Bharatiya Janata Party should be pretty happy because it has finally managed to open its account in the state, which has traditionally opted either for the Left- or the Congress-led formations. However, it's also true that despite the efforts of top BJP leadership, including party president Amit Shah, the BJP could bag only one seat in the shape of O. Rajagopal. While post-poll trends had indicated that the Congress would lose in Kerala, the party leadership was confident that it would retain power. But that was not to be. Chandy himself may have won from the Puthupally constituency, but his party had to bite the dust.
But why did the Congress fare so badly? The Congress-led UDF government was battling many factors -- from corruption allegations of solar scam and bar bribery, to an aggressive opposition which spared no efforts to put the Chandy dispensation in the dock. In the face of it all, the Congress could not put up a credible defence. Ahead of the assembly election, the UDF government got embroiled in a controversy over land allotment. The Left parties were constantly vociferous in raising the issue which certainly impacted collective public consciousness. While the decision on land allotment was reversed, the Chandy government could not escape the media's microscope, pushing the Congress even further on the edge.It also seems that the Congress had hoped that the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) of Hindu Ezhava leader Velapally Natesan would eat into the vote bank of the Left in about a dozen seats. However, this was nothing but a miscalculation.
Moreover, the UDF government failed to come up with a pragmatic liquor policy and the selection of Congress candidates was flawed. So, what lies ahead for a battered Congress which doesn't have much to do except lick its wounds?Observers pointed out that daggers would be out soon to target outgoing chief minister Chandy and Congress state chief V.M. Sudheeran. There could be a change in the state leadership as well, observers said. But for the next five years, the Congress will have to remain satisfied with playing the role of opposition. For the LDF, it's time to celebrate. But there's a tough task ahead: to pick the next chief minister on Friday. While CPI-M veteran V.S. Achuthanandan is again hoping to bag the job, he is likely to be challenged by his arch-rival, Pinarayi Vijayan. A lot will now depend on how CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury tackles the situation.