The Manorama-Karvy opinion poll has predicted a near-sweep for the UDF. The Congress-led front has been given a definite edge in 13 seats, and this includes a couple of upset wins in Alathur and Kasaragod. It is expected to wrest Thrissur, Idukki and Kannur from the LDF.
The UDF tally can go up to even 15. For the LDF, the survey predicts a clear edge only in three; in two expected constituencies (Palakkad and Attingal) and also in mercurial Alappuzha. At the most, the LDF may pocket four seats.
Nonetheless, the most historically charged prediction is the slight advantage given for the BJP in Thiruvananthapuram.
Thiruvananthapuram is one of the four constituencies for which the survey was not able to come up with a decisive winner. Vadakara, Mavelikkara and Chalakkudy being the other three.
Of course, the BJP has been gradually bridging the gap in Thiruvananthapuram. BJP's O Rajagopal had nearly got the better of Shashi Tharoor in 2014. It had improved its performance in the 2016 Assembly polls.
In 2014, what separated Tharoor and Rajagopal was 1.78 per cent of the total votes polled. The survey favours the BJP this time, though the margin is even smaller at one per cent. The BJP candidate will increase his vote share from 28 per cent in 2014 to 36 per cent this time, the survey states. Another significant point is, the survey was done before Kummanam Rajasekharan was declared as the candidate.
There is also a hint why there is a probable BJP surge in the capital district. Thiruvananthapuram is the only constituency in the state that feels that Sabarimala is the biggest issue of the 17th Lok Sabha polls. Interestingly, voters in Pathanamthitta or Thrissur, where the BJP expects to take advantage of the Sabarimala controversy, do not consider Sabarimala as one of even the top three important issues that would decide this election. Nonetheless, the NDA will improve its performance in both Thrissur and Pathanamthitta, though it will still remain a distant third.
Yet, the survey shows a fall in the NDA vote percentage from 15.05 during the 2016 Assembly polls to 13 per cent this time. It seems that the BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai's “golden opportunity” gone to waste? Though an overwhelming 63 percent of the respondents said that women should not be allowed to enter Sabarimala, the survey suggests that this sentiment probably would not translate into votes for the BJP. The UDF looks like the beneficiary. Answers to questions related to hartals, also, suggest a dissatisfaction with the BJP.
Pillai vs Nair
A big surprise is the shaky position of Congress candidate and serial winner Kodikkunnil Suresh in Mavelikkara. Suresh has the edge, but only a slight untrustworthy one. Fact is, a strong contender like Chittayam Gopakumar was announced as the candidate later. Another decisive factor is the influence of R Balakrishna Pillai. Pillai is a known Suresh baiter. But earlier he was with the UDF and senior Congress leaders like A K Antony and Oommen Chandy could influence him to stand by Suresh. This time he and his son Ganesh Kumar have put their weight behind the LDF. In places like Kottarakkara, Pathanapuram, and Kunnathur, all within the Mavelikkara constituency, Pillai has more sway over Nair votes than even the NSS supremo G Sukumaran Nair. Mavelikkara, many say, is also a battle between two Nairs: R Balakrishna Pillai and Sukumaran Nair.
There has been a dramatic change in Vadakara, too, where K Muraleedharan has been made the candidate long after the survey was completed. In Chalakkudy, where CPM's Innocent and Congress's Benny Behanan are locked in a tight contest, the survey shows another photo-finish, though it has given the Congress a marginal edge. Last time, Innocent had only a marginal advantage of 1.05 per cent. This time the survey predicts a similar wafer-thin advantage of one per cent for Behanan.
The Wayanad prediction has of course not taken into consideration the Rahul Gandhi factor. It says there will be a 5 per cent lead for the UDF candidate, better than the 2.3 per cent lead last time for Congress's M I Shanavas.
The survey also shows a dramatic improvement in UDF's fortunes in Ponnani. The Muslim League's E T Muhammad Basheer had witnessed a sharp seven per cent fall in his votes between 2009 to 2014. From 50.14 per cent it went down to 43.8 per cent in 2014. The survey now predicts that Basheer will corner 55 per cent of the votes in Ponnani, a result that would look better than 2009.
Women, farmers and violence
As shocking as the possible BJP win in Thiruvananthapuram is the possible loss of the CPM in its stronghold Alathur, that too by a fairly large 6 per cent margin. The survey was done before Ramya Haridas was made the UDF candidate. It is also true that P K Biju's majority had dwindled in 2014.
Yet another result that runs contrary to popular notion is the huge victory predicted for the UDF candidate in Idukki where the CPM-independent Joice George is seeking a second chance. If in 2014 Joice had won by a margin of 5 per cent, the survey shows that this time Congress's Dean Kuriakose, whom he had defeated last time, will win by a margin of 5 per cent. Unlike in 2014, the Church has refused to openly back Joice George this time.
The survey also reveals a strong disgust towards political violence. This was probably reflected in the advantage the survey has found for the UDF in Kannur, Kasaragod and Alathur.
For the survey, 60 voters belonging to eight booths in each Assembly constituency were approached. This is perhaps the most exhaustive such exercise carried out by a TV channel in Kerala. The survey was carried out in all the 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state covering each of the 140 Assembly constituencies, from February 23 to March 7.