On a day when she would make history with the largest margin of victory in a Kerala assembly election, state Health Minister K. Shailaja Teacher appealed to the public to maintain utmost vigil with COVID protocols as votes were counted.
With an over 60,000 vote-margin between her and her opponent Illikkal Augusthy of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (trailed by Biju Elakkuzhi of the BJP), Shailaja received a resounding mandate in her constituency of Mattannur, Kannur. For comparison, the highest victory margin in the 2016 elections was 45,587 votes, for Kerala Congress (M) leader P.J. Joseph. The highest margin ever was only slightly higher, held by M. Chandran of Alathur (47,000) in the 2006 election, according to IndiaVotes.com.
With the Left Democratic Front (LDF) leading in 99 seats, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijaya, set to return for a second term, led by over 40,000 votes in his constituency of Dharmadam, Kannur. This is the first time an incumbent government has been re-elected in Kerala in 40 years.
Affectionately known as the “Rockstar” health minister for her role in helping the state contain the Nipah virus and the initial wave of COVId-19 infections, Shailaja gained international renown after she, along with other women leaders across the world, developed a leading and science-based approach to containing the novel coronavirus.
In September, the UK-based Prospect magazine selected Teacher as the `Top Thinker of the Year 2020', beating New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, for her role in flattening the curve of COVID-19 Kerala.
While the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Kerala, the state managed to effectively contain the virus until October. A surge in cases since then, coinciding with the election season, saw Kerala have the most number of cases in India after Maharashtra. As India grapples with a second wave that appears deadlier and more infectious than previous waves, however, Kerala has managed to maintain the lowest death rate in the country, at 0.4 per cent.