Working Paper
Management of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kerala through the lens of state capacity and clientelism

During the first wave of COVID-19 infections, Kerala, a state in southern India, successfully managed to contain the pandemic. As a result, the Kerala model of managing the COVID-19 pandemic was celebrated as a success across the globe.

However, at the time of writing, it looks like the celebrations were a bit premature and the failure to contain the spurt in COVID-19 infections in the state in a second wave also ascertains this fact. While the rest of India recovered from the second wave of COVID-19 infections, Kerala struggled to bring the pandemic under control.

This paper examines the state capacity in terms of health infrastructure before and during the pandemic. The paper also investigates the reasons behind the unravelling of the Kerala model of pandemic management.

We analyse the role and impact of clientelism and political hegemony of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala over COVID-19 mitigation strategies. We also investigate how Kerala’s effective pandemic response created a sort of performance legitimacy for the LDF government.