5 late campaign incidents that could sway voter decision in Kerala

5 late campaign incidents that could sway voter decision in Kerala
(From left) P S Sreedharan Pillai, Pinarayi Vijayan, Priyanka Gandhi, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Amit Shah.

It is said that voters are chronic procrastinators. Meaning, like students who prefer to open their books on the day before exam, they firm up their mind very close to the election date, perhaps only even hours before.

Many incidents that happen quite close to the election date could sway the voter. Take for instance, the elections to Kundara assembly seat in 1980. CPM's V V Joseph was up against Congress's Thoppil Ravi. It was a seat that Congress stalwart A A Rahim had held for two terms. Therefore, the popular notion was that the Congress would sail through, until the day before the elections when fresh poll graffiti appeared on walls along the coastal areas of the constituency that said: “No vote for the fisherman.” For the coastal community, which was traditionally pro-Congress, this was so provocative that they came out in large numbers and swept Joseph, who was from the community, to a massive win.

Here, Onmanorama attempts to pick a handful of late events that might have helped a confused voter decide one way or the other.

Amit Shah's Pathanamthitta road show

The crowd was massive and it was almost as grand as Rahul Gandhi's Wayanad show. It was the day before Easter Sunday and the BJP national president did all he can to provoke Hindus deeply aggrieved at what happened in Sabarimala after the Supreme Court verdict. Shah's provocative tone might have worked two ways. He could have instilled anger and a sense of revenge in the Hindu community against the LDF government. On the other hand, his show of strength might have seemed so forbidding that minorities would have felt the need to stick even more together.

Amit Shah

Priyanka Gandhi's charm offensive

No one could have offered a telling counterpoint to Amit Shah than Priyanka. Both their visits to the state coincided. While one was grim, like a war general, the other always had a smile, like she was out meeting close family. The warmth with which she hugged little children and women, and the sweet little things she had to say about her brother Rahul Gandhi, seem to have won hearts. Kerala always had a soft corner for strong adorable ladies. Priyanka's grandmother Indira Gandhi, with whom she has a startling resemblance, is an example.

Priyanka Gandhi
Priyanka Gandhi

Sreedharan Pillai's joke about Muslims

The way the state BJP president said it, with a sly smile and a mocking gesture with his hands, suggested that he enjoyed the comment. Sreedharan Pillai was campaigning for Shobha Surendran in Attingal on April 14. He was lauding Narendra Modi's Balakot counter-strike and found it infuriating that the Congress and the CPM were asking for the numbers of the dead, and also their religion. He then, as though cracking a joke, went on to say how the Muslims could be physically identified. Even Narendra Modi, who could get away with making fun of Muslims in North India, had never crossed the limits in Kerala. The Kerala electorate, with a substantial and decisive minority population, could probably find in Pillai's comment the BJP's true feelings for the minorities.

P S Sreedharan Pillai

Pinarayi Vijayan's 'intolerance'

The chief minister was already vilified for the way in which he handled the Sabarimala issue. The Sangh Parivar even sought to create the perception that the chief minister was out to destroy Hindu faith. On April 15, Vishu day, Vijayan once again played into their hands. While he was speaking at an election convention for CPM's Attingal candidate A Sampath, devotional chants suddenly poured forth from a loudspeaker placed a few metres away. A temple festival was on nearby. Seeing the chief minister upset, panicky party workers severed the connection to the loudspeaker. The Sangh Parivar lost no time in selling this as yet another instance of Pinarayi Vijayan's anti-devotee inclination.

Pinarayi Vijayan

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as BJP candidate

This was something that happened far outside the state, in Madhya Pradesh. However, there is a feeling that the BJP's decision to field someone accused of the worst form of terrorism could cause a rethinking among Kerala voters who were opposed to the party's extreme side but were still lured by Modi's development pitch in 2014. The saffron-robed lady, now out on bail, is one of the prime accused in the Malegaon blasts that had killed six and injured over 100 in 2009. Right after her candidature was announced, she boasted that she was among those who brought down the Babri Masjid in 1992. Worse, she said it was her curse that caused the death of anti-terrorism hero Hemant Karkare. This could be jarring for a voter who had found Modi reassuring.

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur
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