The hype hides the truth. Elections are won or lost on the basis of deep sentiments and not swayed by poll-eve pyrotechnics.
As 2.61 crore voters, and 2.88 lakh among them freshers, gear up for the battle of the ballot in Kerala on Tuesday, their choice is whether to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term at the Centre or hark back to the secular camp, be it the Congress or the Left.
The month-long electioneering shows the LDF, not a hot favourite in initial surveys, covering a lot of distance by fielding strong candidates. The UDF countered this with a strong line-up and its leaders tom-tommed Congress president Rahul Gandhi as a game changer, who would ensure all the 20 seats in their kitty.
No doubt Rahul would coast to a thumping victory in Wayanad. His presence inspires a higher minority accretion to the UDF in many seats as he is seen as the best bet at the national level to check the Modi juggernaut. The Left has not forgiven him for the Waynadan foray but Rahul sought to neutralize it by not picking up a direct fight and “absorbing” their pique.
On the Left camp, Chief Minister Pinara-yi Vijayan emerged as the chief campaigner in the absence of his predecessor, Mr V.S. Achuthanandan.
The LDF’s yesteryear electoral mojo doesn’t seem to work, perhaps. But the duo of Mr Vijayan and party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on party posters across the State struggled to match the electoral pull of Mr Achuthanandan, whose appeal transcended party cadre and supporters.
Mr Modi did what he could do best; push the polarizing agenda. He did not utter the S-word while in Kerala but raised it once outside the State. Some relief for CEO Teeka Ram Meena.
To hazard a guess on a tally-wise outcome is risky because it is to be seen how the voter reacts to the UDF campaign against CPM brand of political violence in Malabar. If the voter reacts as vehemently against the killings, the UDF tally is likely to exceed its 12 sitting seats. In the most high-profile Thiruvananthapuram, it is touch and go despite Dr Shashi Tharoor getting the NSS backing this time.
Sabarimala remained a major subject as deep-rooted religious sentiments seemed to overwhelm political moorings, both among male and female voters. This is bad news for the LDF because voter apathy would benefit rivals; who would benefit the most from this is mere conjecture.
The new voters, many of whom would follow the pattern of their parents, are a case in point. The Muslim League continuing to win in Malappuram and Ponnani, though with an exception, suggests that the generational shift in electoral preferences is a long-drawn process.