Thiruvanathapuram: In a photo-finish, the Congress-led UDF on Friday unseated the CPI(M)-led LDF, winning 72 seats in the 140-member assembly, the thinnest majority margin in the last four decades.
Giving the UDF a run for its money in the closely fought contest, rival LDF secured 68 seats, managing to hold its ground.
Even as it conceded power, the LDF led by CPI-M veteran VS Achuthanandan regained much of the ground it lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and civic elections last year.
While the CPI(M) emerged as the single largest party with 45 seats out of 93 it contested, the Congress which heads the UDF could win only 38 of the 82 seats it fought.
UDF allies like the Indian Union Muslim League and the Kerala Congress (Mani) did well in their traditional strongholds, which helped the combine to scrape through.
Accepting the verdict, both Achuthanadan and CPI(M) state secretary Pinaryi Vijayan made it clear that the front would sit in the opposition without making any effort to cling to power by luring any minor component from the UDF.
In a subdued reaction to the results, Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala said the party would introspect reasons for the results falling short of their expectations.
Chandy, who won for the ninth consecutive time from his pocketborough Puthupally with a huge margin of 33,255 votes over his CPI(M) rival, said Congress MLAs and the party high command would choose the CLP leader.
The dream of the BJP to enter the state assembly was shattered once again but it finished second in three seats, including Nemom where former Union Minister O Rajagopal was in the fray.
The outcome showed that in all regions, the LDF gave a tough fight to the UDF belying its hopes of a sterling performance cashing in on the "anti-incumbency" factor in the state where the rival fronts rule alternately.
As per preliminary figures, the vote difference between the two fronts was about 1.5 lakh.
Apart from 38 seats bagged by the Congress, UDF's second largest partner IUML won 20, Kerala Congress (Mani) 9, Socialist Janata (Democratic) 2, Kerala Congress (B), Kerala Congress (Jacob), and RSP (B) one each. Two of the UDF partners, JSS and CMP, were washed out.
In the LDF, CPI-M secured 45, followed by CPI 13, JD(S) four and NCP, RSP and LDF backed Independents two each. Kerala Congress (Thomas group) and a faction of the INL, which were part of the LDF drew blank.
Prominent UDF winners include Oommen Chandy, who is a probable chief ministerial candidate, KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala, late leader K Karuanakara's son K Muraleedharan, IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty, Kerala Congress veteran K M Mani and state youth Congress president P C Vishnunath.
In the LDF, Achuthanandan emerged victorious by an impressive margin of over 23,000 votes in the party bastion of Malampuzha.
The members of the LDF cabinet who secured a fresh mandate are Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, P K Gurudasan, M A Baby, Thomas Isaac, G Sudhakaran S Sarma and A K Balan, Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M), Mullakkara Ratnakaran and C Divakaran (CPI), Jose Thettayil (JD-S). Assembly Speaker K Radhakrishnan (CPI-M) retained the Chelakkara seat in Thrissur.
The ministers, who fell by the wayside, are V Surendra Pillai (Kerala Congress-Thomas), NK Premachandran (RSP) and Ramachandran Kadannapally (Congress-S).
Veterans who lost the elections are 92-year-old K R Gowry Ammma of JSS and 78-year-old M V Raghavan of CMP, both UDF allies.
Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, who is now in Malampuzha, will be back in the state capital tomorrow to submit his resignation to Governor RS Gavai.
UDF chairman Oommen Chandy said the leader of the coalition Congress, would take all the partners into confidence and work out the next course of action.