Thiruvananthapuram: The Opposition Congress led-UDF in Kerala appears to be heading for a landslide in the state by continuing its lead in 19 of the total 20 Lok Sabha seats, with AICC President Rahul Gandhi so far garnering over 3.63 lakh lakh votes from Wayanad.
Gandhi, who contested from the hilly constituency, besides his traditional stronghold of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, got 3,63,202 votes till 3.40 PM, as per the Election Commission website. Besides Gandhi, eight UDF candidtates-Ramya Haridas (Alathur), Hibi Eden (Ernakulam), Dean Kuriyakose (Idukki), Benny Behnan (Chalakkudy)(all Congress), IUML leaders E T Mohammed Basheer (Ponnani) and P K Kunhalikutty (Malappuram), Thomas Chazhikadan of KC(M)(Kottayam) and N K Premachandran of RSP (Kollam) have crossed the one lakh mark.
For the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF, which appears to have suffered a massive loss, the only consolation was its performance in Alappuzha constituency, where MLA A M Ariff is ahead of his Congress rival Shanimol Osman by a margin of 13,043 votes at 3.30 PM. Gandhi’s presence seems to have helped UDF put in an impressive performance in the polls.
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government had expected to repeat its 2004 performance, in which the Left Front won 18 seats, despite most exit polls predicting only 4-5 seats for them. Reacting to the impressive lead of the Congress in the state despite a major loss at national level,Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala expressed happiness and said a strong anti-Modi wave swept through the state.
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, who is inching towards a hatrick from Thiruvananthapuram constituency said the performance of his party in the state was a moment of agony and ecstacy as they face a setback lost at the national level. “I feel that we lost despite hitting a century,” an emotional Tharoor told mediapersons. CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told reporters that the defeat of Left was unexpected in the state. “This is a temperory setback. We have faced such situations earlier. We will outlive such defeats. We will rectify the mistakes if any,” he told reporters.
The BJP-NDA had also high expectations of opening its maiden Lok Sabha account from the state this time, riding on the Sabarimala women’s entry issue, which saw protests break out after the LDF government decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of menstrual age to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple.
However, the saffron party could make its presence felt only in Thiruvananthapuram, where its candidate Kummanam Rajasekaran, a former Mizoram Governor came second, trailing Tharoor. Pathanamthitta, the ground zero of the Sabarimala stir, where the BJP had fielded its firebrand leader K Surendran to wrest the seat from Congress’ Anto Antony, failed to make his presence felt and came a poor third. Antony is leading by 44,865 votes against the CPI(M) candidate Veena George.
Union Minister and BJP candidate Alphons Kannanthanam also continued to trail in Ernakulam constituency, way behind Congress’s Hibi Eden and CPI(M)’s P Rajeev. BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said though his party failed to bag a seat in Kerala, it had increased the vote share.
“Nationally, this is the biggest win in the history of BJP. In Kerala, we were fighting two strong Fronts and expecting to win a few seats. But this election became the one which helped us gather the maximum vote share,” Pillai told reporters.