Exit polls predict LDF win, Cong hopeful of retaining power
Thiruvananthapuram, May 10: Kerala's voters maintain their tradition of voting for a change, is the question in everyone's minds when counting of votes for the three-phased Assembly elections in the state begins tomorrow morning.
Chief Electoral Officer Nalini Netto said all preparations for counting of votes were complete and a clear picture about the winners would be known by 1100 hrs.
The Marxist-led Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) is in an upbeat mood with pre-poll and exit polls predicting a victory for them even in the absence of any marked anti-incumbency factor. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), however, says it will retain power, even if by a slender margin.
Previous elections in 2001 saw the UDF wresting power from the Marxist-led combine by a huge majority of 100 in the 140-member house. Much water has flown under the bridge since as the Congress lost almost all by-polls, elections to Parliament and local bodies.
Mr Oommen Chandy took over as Chief Minister after Mr A K Antony's resignation and the Congress later split with veteran leader K Karunakaran forming a new party. However, Mr Karunakaran threw in his lot with the UDF for the election.
In these polls, the 'development mantra' was the UDF's poll plank. On the other hand, the LDF projected the so-called 'anti-people' policies of the Chandy Government to convince the voters.
While the UDF projected Mr Chandy as Chief Ministerial candidate, the LDF is in some confusion on the leadership issue. Though CPI(M) Politburo member and Leader of the Opposition V S Achuthanandan stole the limelight during campaign, it is uncertain whether he would be asked to head the government if the LDF got a majority.
Initially, Mr Achuthanandan was denied a ticket by the party, which reversed the decision following stiff internal protests. It was said the faction identified with CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan was strongly opposed to his candidature.
In the electoral arena, both the Chief Minister and his rival in Puthupalli had to campaign on crutches. While Mr Chandy fractured his hip during a fall in Davos, SFI state chief Sindhu Joy was injured in police action during a students agitation. Mr Achuthanandan is seeking re-election from Malampuzha where his Congress rival is Mr Satheesan Pacheni.
Prominent among other candidates in the fray are LDF convener Paloli Mohammed Kutty (Ponnani), Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) president, K Muraleedharan (Koduvally), Indian Union Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty (Kuttippuram), former Union Minister and BJP leader O Rajagopal (Palakkad), CPI(M) Central Committee members M A Baby (Kundara) and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan (Thalasseri), CPI(M) State Secretariat member T M Thomas Issac (Mararikulam) and former Assembly Speaker M Vijayakumar (Thiruvananthapuram - North).
The CPI(M) heads the LDF, in which the Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Janata Dal(S), Kerala Congress (Joseph), Nationalist Congress Party, Congress(S) and Kerala Congress (Secular) are the other partners.
In the UDF fold, apart from the Congress, there are the Indian Union Muslim League, Kerala Congress (M), Janathipathya Samrakshana Samiti, Communist Marxist Party, RSP(B) and Kerala Congress (B).
DIC(K) of veteran leader K Karunakaran has a seat-sharing pact with the UDF.
In Kerala, the polls were held in three phases - April 22, 29 and May three. There were 21.48 million voters, including 11.14 million women, in the 14 districts of the state.