The times are a changing. The irreverence of the Kerala voter that began with the Pala by-poll in September is more evident now—throwing up surprising but delightful results in the five by-elections. Even as the details of the voting patterns need to be examined in detail, it seems that Kerala’s discerning voter has gone for the best candidate in the fray disregarding the usual caste and religious factors that come into play.
The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) stormed Congress strongholds—Vattiyoorkvau and Konni—and chipped away at another—Ernakulam—reducing the UDF’s winning margins in the commercial capital. If the ruling LDF is gloating over these two wins, they have much to worry about, for they lost their fortress, Aroor, to Congress candidate Shanimol Usman. Aroor has been with the Left from 1967 except for a decade (1996-2006) when the Communist Party of India (Marxist) stalwart K R Gowriamma, thrown out of her own party, joined hands with the Congress-led United Democratic Front. As for the BJP, although it held on to its second place in Manjeshwar, its vote share declined considerably in Vattiyoorkavu, where it had finished a close second in the 2016 Assembly elections (and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections) on the back of the candidature of Kummanam Rajasekharan, to slip to the third place.
The result in the Vattiyoorkavu Assembly segment in Thiruvananthapuram makes for an interesting case study. Though the Nair Service Society (NSS), a Hindu social organization, openly campaigned for the UDF candidate K Mohankumar, the majority Nair community seemed disinclined to do the NSS bidding. The fact that LDF’s V K Prasanth, former mayor of Thriruvananthapuram, who is not from the Nair community, won by over 14,465 votes shows that caste arithmetic can be countered by the candidate’s individual appeal.