The first opinion poll ahead of Kerala’s assembly elections in April next year has predicted a narrow win for the ruling Left Democratic Front, while also forecasting a 20% increase in vote share for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
The opinion poll, conducted between June 18 and 29 among 10,409 persons, predicts that the Left Democratic Front will retain 80 out of its existing 91 seats, while the Congress-led UDF will improve its tally from 47 to around 58. The halfway mark is 70 seats.
The most surprising trend has been predicted for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which has been projected to raise its strength in the assembly from 1 to 5.
The survey was conducted by C-fore for Asianet News, Kerala’s oldest private news channel, currently owned by Jupiter Capital Pvt Ltd, an investment firm floated by NDA Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
According to the survey, the LDF will see its vote share fall to 42% from 43.5% five years ago, while the UDF will see it fall by about 1 percentage point to 38%.
The NDA has been projected to improve its vote share by a whopping 3 percentage points from 15% to 18%.
Before asking for the current preference, C-fore asked these people about their voting behavior during the 2016 election, which revealed that 49% had voted for the LDF, 39% for the UDF and 9% for the NDA. In other words, twice as many people from the respondents will now vote for the BJP-led front, according to the numbers (There are, however, some discrepancies in the vote shares as explained later).
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 50% of the respondents had voted for the UDF, 12% for the NDA and only 35% for the LDF.
The opinion poll was done in 50 out of the 140 assembly constituencies between June 18 and 29.
The survey predicted strong resilience for the Left Front in northern Kerala, even as the Congress is expected to continue to dominate in central Kerala (see chart).
The slight edge that the LDF will retain in southern Kerala is expected to finally swing the state towards Left Front government, according to the survey.
The survey also tried to analyze voting patterns by community, which revealed three trends.
First is a significant increase in the support for the Left Front in the largest community studied — the Muslim community of Kerala.
The community, which accounts for around 29% of the total votes, will give nearly 49% of its votes to the LDF, the survey found.
This works out to about 14.2% of the total votes in the state and a whopping 33.8% of all votes going to the Left Front in the election.
The UDF will get only around 31% of the Muslim votes, with 20% going to ‘others’ — the highest of any community. The UDF is already engaged in stitching together an alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami in an attempt to channel some of these ‘other’ votes back to the alliance.
The second biggest voting community in Kerala are the Ezhavas, who comprise an estimated 26% of the population.
Like in most other states, the Congress is at its weakest in this community, which forms the so-called intermediate or OBC section within the broader Hindu community.
The Congress’s vote share among Ezhavas is only 23% — the party’s poorest showing in any of the eight communities surveyed. The Ezhavas are also the only voting block in which BJP gets more votes (24%) than the UDF (23%).
Ezhavas, who comprise about 26% of Kerala society, contribute about 6 percentage points to BJP’s tally, thus making them the biggest contributor of votes to saffront front.
With 47% of their votes going to the LDF, they also form the second biggest vote contributor to the Communist front and contribute 25.7% of the total votes it is projected to get, compared to the 33.8% contributed by Muslims.
An interesting finding of the survey is the increasing vote share of the saffron alliance in the Syrian Christian community, which accounts for about 13% of the total population.
A full 14% of the community’s voters are likely to vote for the NDA this time, according to the survey, indicating that the BJP’s attempts to woo the so-called upper caste Christians may be paying off.
48% of the Syrian Christian respondents expressed a preference for the UDF, while 29% chose the LDF.
BJP, however, has not been able to make many inroads into the other Christian community — Latin Christians, who largely comprise those who converted to Christianity during the European rule of Kerala.
The origin of the Latin Christians — who comprise only around 4-5% of the total population — can be traced to intermediate and Dalit Hindu communities. Not surprisingly, the BJP has not had much success in appealing to this segment, with only 3% of the Latin Christians likely to vote for the saffon alliance.
24% of them prefer the LDF and a whopping 61% chose the Congress-led UDF. However, even though Congress’ share of votes in the community is very high, the votes from this community will still account for just 3.1% of the total votes obtained by the Congress alliance in the state.
The [Hindu] Dalit community, which accounts for around 15% of Kerala’s population, is expected to give 22% of their votes to the BJP, 25% to the UDF and 37% to the Left Front. The trend is largely along expected lines, though it does show continued progress for the BJP in making inroads into Left votes within various Dalit groups.
The fourth biggest community in Kerala, Nairs, will favor the UDF, with 42% of the votes going to the Congress-led front, and only 27% to the BJP.
The vote shares of the BJP among the Ezhavas and the Nairs have shown a slight decline compared to five years ago due to the leadership of the Congress and Left fronts.
The Congress Front (UDF) is led by Ramesh Chennithala, a Nair, which has helped the party claw back some of its lost vote share from the BJP, while the Left Front is led by Pinarayi Vijayan, a Thiyya, which has helped the Left put a stop to the erosion of its Ezhava votes to the BJP.
If it weren’t for the community backgrounds of these two leaders of the LDF and the UDF, the BJP would have made bigger inroads into the votes of these two Hindu communities.
The survey also found that the Left Front was a clear winner among men, beating the UDF 41% against 34%, while the UDF beat the Left Front among women at 35% against 34%.
Interestingly, the proportion of voters favoring the NDA was 16% among men and only 13% among women, which gives a blended percentage of 14.5% for Kerala as a whole. However, the vote share attributed to the saffron alliance among the general voters is 18% in the main table, indicating a calculation mistake somewhere.
The survey also found a clear preference for the LDF among the youngest voters (43% among 18 to 25-year-olds vs 30% for the UDF and 15% for NDA) as well as middle-aged (36 to 50-year-olds, with LDF at 40% vs 31% for UDF and 16% for the NDA).
It was only in the 26-35 year bracket (31:38:17) and the 50+ bracket (36:44:5) that the LDF lost out to the UDF.