Despite Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala managing to wrest power from the Left Democratic Front with a slim majority, outgoing Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who helped the combine regain much of the lost ground in 2009 Lok Sabha elections and civic polls last year, is seen as "the man of the match", which has strengthened his position in CPI-M.
The veteran CPI-M leader, who set the agenda for the polls by bringing issues like corruption and sex scandals to sharp focus, had mounted a spirited campaign across the state which was the single most factor that helped LDF to shore up its sagging support base reflected in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
In the process, he also won support and admiration of all sections including women, youth, rights campaigners and green groups, cutting across political divides.
Significantly, for the first time in the history of the CPI-M in Kerala, the LDF candidates sought vote by putting up posters showing them standing with Achuthanandan.
Though this "personality cult" created some murmurs among sections in the party leadership, no one dared to come out openly against it.
Before the state turned into the poll mode, the situation was taken as hugely favourable for the UDF. Going by the Lok Sabha and civic polls, the UDF tally was expected to touch 100.
The situation was dramatically reversed by Achuthanandan just three months ago by bringing to focus issues like 'ice cream parlour sex' case and corruption following conviction of former state minister and KC(B) leader R Balakrishna Pillai in a graft case, which he had persistently pursued.
Though the rival faction in CPI-M led by state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had plans to retire the senior leader, the turn of events in the last few months earned tremendous grassroot support to Achuthanandan, which ultimately compelled the party to go to the polls under his leadership.
On the campaign trail, Achuthanandan proved to be the biggest crowd puller which was recognised even by his inner-party foes. Also, he emerged as the most popular chief ministerial candidate in all the pre and post-poll surveys.
According to CPI-M watchers, Achuthanandan in all probability will be re-elected CPI-M leader in the assembly to lead LDF opposition, which has a tally of 68 in the 140-member assembly.
Though the state party set-up continues to be under Vijayan's control, the faction would not take the risk of denying the 87-year-old veteran the slot that is due to him as it would create serious problems in the party's various tiers.
Despite his advanced years, Achuthanandan has sent signals that he is ready to lead the opposition and has the advantage of total support from all LDF partners. His reaction to the poll verdict was that he would continue his struggles for the people.
The aggressive campaigning of Achuthanandan as the LDF's torch bearer also resulted in many who deserted his camp in the past acknowledging him as their undisputed leader.