After five long years of sitting in the Opposition, it was a torturous path to victory for the Congress-led UDF in Kerala.

In one of the most closely contested political battles in the State, the UDF just scraped through bagging 72 seats in the 140-seat Kerala State Assembly while the CPM-led LDF was a tad behind with 68 seats.

“It was like watching an IPL match on TV with the fortunes of each front shifting with the announcement of lead/victory for every one of the hotly contested seats. The tension among the viewers came to a fever pitch when both the UDF and LDF were tied with each front poised to bag 70 seats. But the sea-saw battle drew to a close with scenes of UDF supporters bursting crackers live on TV,” Mr E.P. Rajesh, an employee of a private sector company in Kochi said.

But the victory fell short of expectations of UDF supporters and political pundits. Both Mr Oommen Chandy, the Chief Minister-in- waiting, and Mr Ramesh Chennithala, President of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, conceded that the margin of victory fell short of expectations. “We will deliberate on the causes why we fell short of expectations,” Mr Chandy added.

Surprisingly, the margin of victory for several of the candidates from both the fronts this time was a few hundred votes.

This was primarily because for the first time the BJP came into reckoning, contesting all the seats in the State. In the triangular contest, BJP candidates would have marginally eroded the vote bank of mainly Congress candidates and it would have resulted in the thin margin of victory and also the shortfall in UDF seats. The narrow margin of victory has also raised concerns of horse trading and of smaller political parties switching sides.

The trade and industry in the state has also expressed its apprehension at the slender margin of victory for the UDF. While the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed concern whether the thin margin of victory would affect development works in the state, the Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry felt that the narrow majority could result in good governance and enable the government to pursue the development initiatives of the State.

(This article was published on May 13, 2011)
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