Thiruvananthapuram: With counting of votes almost done in Kerala, the Congress-led UDF had won or was winning 19 of the state's 20 seats, including Wayanad from where Congress President Rahul Gandhi also contested, while the ruling CPI-M-led LDF was ahead in just one seat and the BJP again drew a blank.
The UDF tally included the Congress with 15, the Indian Union Muslim League with two and the Kerala Congress-Mani and the Revolutionary Socialist Party with one each.
This time, the UDF candidates has won with substantial margins, led by Gandhi who won by the state's highest margin of 431,770 votes.
A total of 10 UDF candidates won with margins of over one lakh - Shashi Tharoor from Thiruvananthapuram, P.K.Kunhalikutty in Malappuram, E.T.M ohammed Basheer in Ponnani, Remya Haridas in Alathur, Benny Behanan in Chalakudy, N.K.Premachandran in Kollam, Thomas Chazhikadan in Kottayam, Dean Kuriakose in Idukki and Hibi Eden from Ernakulam.
Two of them won by over 90,000 votes - K.Sudhakaran in Kannur and T.N. Prathapan in Thrissur - while K. Muraleedharan (Vadakara) and M.K. Raghavan won with over 80,000 votes.
The other winners include Adoor Prakash (Attingal), V.K.Sreekandan (Palakad), Rajmohan Unnithan (Kasargode), Kodikunnil Suresh (Mavelikera), and Anto Antony (Pathanamthitta).
The lone LDF candidate ahead was sitting CPI-M legislator from Aroor, A.M. Ariff, who was leading with a margin of 9,213 votes in Alappuzha.
The highlight of the UDF's victory is that it has won the Kasargode seat for the first time since 1984, Alathur since 1991, and Palakkad and Attingal after 1996. However, Alappuzha seat seems set to return to the CPI-M after two terms.
"I will like to thank (Chief Minister Pinrayi) Vijayan for the way he ran the Kerala government for three years and that was the biggest reason, I won and so did all others," said Congress strong man Sudhakaran, who won from Vijayan's home district Kannur.
Vijayan, who is getting "credit" from the winning UDF candidates for their victory because of the way he conducted himself after coming to power three years back, preferred to interact with the media through a statement, which termed the result "unexpected".
"There was a strong resentment against the BJP-led Union government and that was our campaign highlight. The electorate took up our issue and the beneficiary of this was the Congress-led UDF. We will surely introspect on what went wrong," he said in the statement.
E.P. Jayarajan, who is seen as the number two in the Vijayan government, contended that there was religious grouping in voting patterns and it favoured the Congress-led UDF.
"This is a setback and we will look into what happened. This is not against the state government. Just look, nationally the Congress has been wiped out," he said.
The emotive Sabarimala row in which senior BJP leaders played a key role failed to help the party open its account in the Lok Sabha battle in Kerala.
The usual best showing for the BJP came in Thiruvananthapuram where it finished second while ending up in the third spot in all other 19 constituencies.
State BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, while declining to elaborate on the impact of Sabarimala issue, told the media here their vote share has gone up, showing that the support base of the party has increased.
"In 2014 we had a share of 10 per cent and this time it has gone up to 16 per cent. We expected to win in a few seats but it did not happen as the two traditional rival fronts here spread canards, but our support base has grown. We will continue to be the real alternative in Kerala," he said.
State Congress President Mullapally Ramachandran and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala demanded that Vijayan should step down in the wake of the near wash out of the CPI-M.
"The people of Kerala have rejected Vijayan and hence he should step down," said Chennithala.
Meanwhile, the CPI-M's M.B. Rajesh, aiming for a hat-trick of wins from Palakkad after his 2014 win with a margin of over one lakh votes, ended up losing to his Congress rival by 11,637 votes, which was the lowest margin of victory this time in the 20 constituencies.
All exit polls and pre-poll surveys had predicted an easy victory for Rajesh. In response, Rajesh told the media: "Not just exit polls can go wrong. But it's also too early to come to any conclusion and one thing what is happening is , there is a definite trend is emerging."