Being an election year, 2019 will undoubtedly be testing times for the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) and the National Democratic Front in Kerala (NDA). While the general elections due in May will be a sort of referendum on the performance of the CPM-led ruling front it will also prove whether the Congress-led opposition has been able to come out of the shock defeat it suffered in 2016. For the BJP, the polls will be a test on how much inroads it could make into the state where it has always been in a distant third position.
The LDF will be facing the election mainly on an anti-corruption plank, projecting itself as a clean government as against the previous scam-tainted UDF government. The Left government has not faced any massive corruption allegation in the first three years, though there were a few nepotism charges against some of its ministers. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been projecting himself as a no-nonsense and determined leader who doesn't give a damn about opposition for the sake of opposition. The polls would also be a test of his popularity and stubborn attitude.
The LDF came to power in 2016 apparently after a consolidation of minority community votes in its favour especially in the wake of a fear about BJP making inroads by consolidating Hindu votes. The trend continued in the Chengannur bypolls also where the CPM's Saji Cherian emerged winner with a huge majority.
The 2019 Lok Sabha polls would reveal whether that trend is continuing or the minority votes would be back in the UDF's kitty.
Sabarimala is going to be a decisive factor that determines the nature of Kerala politics in 2019. The BJP is trying every possible way to consolidate Hindu votes by cashing in on the issue while the LDF has taken a strong stance that it would implement the Supreme Court order allowing entry of women of all ages into the Lord Ayyappa temple. The Congress is also opposed to the SC order that is against the customs of the temple, but the party's protests, true to its traditional nature, has not been as aggressive as those of BJP. It is yet to be seen the Hindus, who are apparently hurt by the Sabarimala verdict, would side with the BJP or go for the softer approach of the Congress. It is also to be seen how the CPM's narrative that the Sabarimala judgment should be viewed as a continuum of the Kerala renaissance would appeal to the people.
Leaders like Pinarayi Vijayan, Oommen Chandy, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Ramesh Chennithala would continue to set the political agenda whereas it is to be seen whether CPM veteran V S Achuthanadan would play the role of a star campaigner in the Lok Sabha polls. The nonagenarian had a crucial role in leading his front to a massive win in the 2016 assembly polls. Ever since, he has been sidelined in the party though he was appointed the chairman of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Council.
For both the Congress and BJP, the year will test the calibre of their newly appointed leadership in Kerala. While KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran is left with the task of sending as many members to the Lok Sabha as possible, BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai also has to ensure that his party manages an impressive show in the polls. A good show would cement their roles in the party whereas an unimpressive performance may show them the door.
The talks of more women getting decisive roles in politics have been on for long but it has to be seen whether there would be any realistic step towards that end in 2019. From a people's perspective, it's all going to be the same old drama, most likely.