Sunday, December 5, 2021

What explains the hold of commies in Kerala; and why BJP lags

Kerala, a state often seen to be of exceptional indices also offers rich flavours of political spices. Since its formation, the state has witnessed different hues of politics ranging from communists to socialists, the center-left Congress to right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. Though, even after having a strong and robust organizational network, the right-wing forces never had a chance to influence the majority of the electorate to their side in this state. 

Left movement and state’s history runs on the same trajectory as the leftist movement has a huge imprint over Kerala and played a vital role in shaping its socio-cultural fabric. Since the 1980’s the power of politics is either enjoyed by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) or the Communist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF). People have alternately brought these parties to power, keeping the major political position of the state largely the same.

The demographics of Kerala will give us a clear answer to why the Left holds a strong position in Kerala. The first reason why the state had the infertile soil for the right-wing is the presence of minorities in large numbers in the state.  Secondly, there is less anti-incumbency in the state as voters never brought any government, whether its Congress or the Left, to power for consecutive times. Third and foremost reason for the strong position of the Left in the state is because their worker base continued to be strong and remained largely unmoved.  

Interestingly, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) which is currently ruling the state under Pinarayi Vijayan, is harboring the dream of coming back to the powers after five-years. The political commentators and analysts have observed that as Congress continues to witness a nationwide decline, and BJP still trying to create a strong base for themselves in the state, CPM will definitely try to project itself as the ‘ideal choice’ for the voters.  Even with the beginning of 2020 almost six months ago, people almost believed that Pinarayi Vijayan would buck the trends and win again in the elections which are slated to happen this year around May-June

However, the second term is no more a sure bet for the left and the harsh reality is the chief minister Vijayan himself is responsible for the condition of the Left Front in Kerala. 

The  CM’s alleged involvement in a gold smuggling case, the avalanche of corruption revelations with the government’s inability to mitigate the increasing coronavirus cases in the state brought Vijayan’s credibility into question and gave a halt to the party’s aspirations. 

The investigating agencies- Customs, Enforcement Directorate (ED), and National Investigation Agency (NIA) camped in the state. What began as a simple smuggling case garnered importance when the prime accused Swapna Suresh, an ex-UAE consulate employee and state IT, department consultant, with close links to the CM’s Principal Secretary M Shivshankar, who is also in charge of the state IT department, got arrested. Later it was also revealed that Swapna was appointed by Shivshankar’s reference. 

However, the Chief Minister tried to distance himself from the case saying that he was in dark and had no ideas about the underhand deals of his secretary. This only added fodder to the public perception that Pinarayi Vijayan was sleeping on the job. The more he tried to justify, the more the suspicions grew.  

Pinarayi’s another blunder came when his another minister- K.T. Jaleel, minister for higher education welfare of minorities, Wakf and Hajj, was questioned multiple times by the ED and NIA

All of these allegations and blunders resulted in the growth of BJP in the state. Recently, BJP gained strength and established a base in Chengannur.  BJP has tapped into the nerve of Hindu voters in the state. 

How the state government handled the issue of Sabarimala reflected the state of the Hindu community and it fanned the growing restlessness of the Hindu populace. The political graph of the BJP has been steadily heading north while the vote share of the UDF and the LDF has been oscillating according to the changed political scenario. These developments have obviously made the Kerala political scenario an unusually complex one.

Hindus make up 55 percent of Kerala’s population, as per 2011 census. Even where the votes don’t go UDF or LDF, a party like IUML (Indian Union Muslim League) too becomes a stumbling block for BJP. In 18 of the 20 constituencies where Hindus make up over half the population, the Congress and the Communists have shared the spoils. 

BJP has all along hoped that seven out of the nine Hindu dominated constituencies, where they count 60 per cent of the population, would fall its way. But, its even either CPI-M or Congress since 2009. The Communists haven’t ceded Palakkad, Alattur and Attingal while the Congress have latched on to Alappuzha, Mavelikara, Thiruvananthapuram and Vadakara. 

The road ahead might not be easy for BJP  but it is neither for the Left and Congress seems to be out of the question.

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