Left set to win in Kerala, BJP to open account (Fourth Lead)

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Thiruvananthapuram, May 19 (IANS) The Left appeared set to stage a comeback in Kerala on Thursday, as it took winning leads in 87 of the 140 constituencies. The BJP was poised to enter the assembly for the first time.

The ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (LDF) was ahead in only 51 constituencies as officials counted the millions of votes polled on May 16.

Based at Palakkad, CPI-M veteran and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan called it a wave in favour of the Left Democratic Front (LDF).

“This is a vote against the corrupt and those who failed to protect the dignity of women,” said an elated Achuthanandan, eyeing a second term as chief minister.

In contrast, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy looked gloomy although he himself was on the winning track in Puthupally constituency.

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As early as Thursday, Chandy appeared confident that the UDF would somehow retain power, beating back a strong challenge from the Left led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

The UDF suffered a huge setback in districts like Kollam and Thrissur besides Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram.

Former central minister and BJP veteran O. Rajagopal maintained his lead in Nemom constituency in the capital district. If he wins, he will be the first BJP member to enter the Kerala assembly.

An independent candidate led in one seat.

At least five state ministers trailed. Besides Achuthanandan, his party colleague Pinarayi Vijayan, who is also a chief ministerial hopeful, was also leading.

A total of 1,203 contestants were in the fray. Most exit polls had predicted a Left victory.

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