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Kerala stands apart, again

Thiruvananthapuram, May 16: Kerala defied the national mood again, electing 12 of the 20 candidates who had contested on the ruling Congress-led coalition’s ticket.

In the process, the small state became the largest contributor to the UPA’s measly tally of 62.

Union minister Shashi Tharoor managed to squeeze in a narrow victory over his nearest rival O. Rajagopal of the BJP in the state capital. But senior Congress leader and 10 Janpath confidant P.C. Chacko lost to CPM-backed Independent candidate and actor Innocent by 13,884 votes.

The lustre of Tharoor’s win was lost in the fact that his lead slipped from 99,999 in 2009 to a mere 15,470 this time while Chacko, who was the sitting candidate from Thrissur, failed to stem the anti-incumbency despite getting the high command to field him from the neighbouring Chalakkudy after evicting a sitting Congress MP.

Five more Union ministers — K.V. Thomas, Kodikkunnil Suresh, Mullappally Ramachandran, K.C. Venugopal (all from the Congress) — and E.Ahmed of ally Indian Union Muslim League managed to buck the national trend. Ahmed registered the maximum winning margin in the state: 1.94 lakh votes.

The CPM-led Left Democratic Front turned in a mediocre performance, winning only eight seats.

The shocker for the CPM, however, was in Kollam where politburo member M.A. Baby was humbled by former ally N.K. Premachandran of the RSP. Baby lost by 37,649 votes.

For the BJP, which had been hoping to ride the Modi wave to open its account in the state, the results came in as a disappointment. In a state where 46 per cent of the population belongs to minority communities, the party had high hopes in Thiruvananthapuram where even the caste equations seemed to favour Rajagopal, an upper caste Hindu Nair, and former junior minister in the Vajpayee ministry.

Although the BJP candidate led by about 13,000 votes, the margin started to narrow once the results poured in from the coastal areas. The BJP vote share touched 10.3 per cent this time, up from 7.31 in 2009.

The state had bucked the national trend on earlier occasions, too. In 1977, the state elected Congress candidates in all 20 seats when the country united to defeat Indira Gandhi post-Emergency. In 2004, when UPA I ascended to office, the Congress drew a blank in the state.

Why is that so? “What I see is a unique political culture. Look at the state’s migration to Gulf, the social reform movements, the rise of the communist parties, etc. Yes there are negative trends too, like we are not growth-oriented, we are hardworking outside the state but not inside and not agriculture-oriented,’’ said G. Gopakumar, former head of the political science department in Kerala University.