It’s ironic, but true. The biggest beneficiary of the BJP/NDA’s rise in Kerala in the just concluded assembly election are the Left parties and most importantly, the CPM. It has not only won a massive majority, but has also seen the Congress/UDF crumbling.
The CPM has always wanted to see a weaker Congress, and today, the BJP and its acolytes are helping the party achieve its vision and probably sustain it. In fact, the party that has more reasons to rejoice about the change of what been a stubbornly bipolar contest to a tri-polar contest is the CPM, because it’s easy to fight two weaklings than a single big fellow.
Yes, the Congress, probably because of its own opportunistic machinations, has become a weakling with the rise of the BJP.
The numbers in many key constituencies show that it’s the BJP-front that has made all the difference. In most places where the star candidates of the Congress and its United Democratic Front (UDF) failed, the BJP's vote-share has risen substantially. In some cases, the margins of victory of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate is eerily almost the same as the number of votes polled by the BJP. In constituencies such as Haripad, where the CPM accused the victorious Congress candidate (Ramesh Chennithala, the former Home Minister) of compromising with the BJP, the party’s performance was poor compared to other places.
In some cases, the margins of victory of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate is eerily almost the same as the number of votes polled by the BJP
The CPM can certainly argue that they have won on its merit because its vote-share has increased compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It certainly did - from 21.59 per cent to 26.5 per cent - and could indeed change its electoral prospects. But what’s more dramatic is the fall of vote-share of the Congress, which is not commensurate with the rise of the CPM votes. Its vote-share fell rather steeply - from 31.1 per cent to 23.7 per cent.
Obviously, all the votes the Congress lost didn’t go to the CPM, but somebody else.
That somebody else is the BJP. But, when one looks at its vote-share, it hasn’t changed at all. In 2014, it was 10.33 per cent and now it’s 10.5 per cent. But, the BJP wasn’t alone. It had an ally called BDJS, an Ezhava party concocted as its caste-based vote-booster just ahead of the elections, and it polled 3.9 per cent of the votes.
Obviously, all the votes the Congress lost didn’t go to the CPM, but somebody else. That somebody else is the BJP.
Although the popular idea of electoral arithmetic of adding up vote-shares do not always work in reality, the BJP and BDJS votes do add up because the latter’s caste-presence is quite uniform across the state. So, together they polled 14.23 per cent of the votes. In other words, the effective vote-share of the BJP rose by about four per cent.
Now, the debit and credit columns match - bulk of the votes of the Congress/UDF went to the BJP/BDJS combine and in the process, the CPM got a free top-up.
In some places where the Congress/UDF have been swept away, the BJP/BDJS’s gain has been phenomenal. For example, in Thiruvananthapuram, where they have won their maiden seat, the front polled about 20 per cent of the votes.
The BDJS was obviously a product of the polarisation lab that has been tested elsewhere in the country. It was meant to wean away the Ezhava votes from the CPM. Ezhavas, who form the majority of Hindus in the state, are the mainstay of the CPM. The apparent calculation was that the BDJS, with logistical and casteist support of the SNDP, the organisation that represents Ezhava interest, would be able to polarise the caste votes that traditionally support the CPM.
What apparently has made matters worse for the Congress also was the allure of the BJP appealing to its upper caste Hindu votes.
Thanks to the strong cadre-base of the CPM and its unequivocal strategy of taking on the BDJS, it didn't happen. Instead, it appeared to have eaten into the Congress votes. What apparently has made matters worse for the Congress also was the allure of the BJP appealing to its upper caste Hindu votes. Nothing else can explain the steep fall in the Congress’s vote-share.
As some analysts noted, Oomen Chandy and the Congress too shared the optimism of the BJP and BDJS and thought that they would be the incidental beneficiary. Probably, he did covertly encourage this devious strategy, while the CPM took the bull by its horns. Its star campaigner VS Achuthanandan spared no occasion to target BDJS and its leader to ensure that his tricks didn’t work.
Unless the CPM/Left parties mess up big time ruling the state over the next five years, this is a hard-to-reverse trend because both the BJP and the BDJS wouldn’t mind playing the divisive politics and have considerable resources to sustain their strategy.
The bottomline is that till it eats up almost all of the the Congress, the CPM and the LDF can sit pretty because even without a big contest, the BJP will do it for them.
So, the bottomline is that till it eats up almost all of the the Congress, the CPM and the LDF can sit pretty because even without a big contest, the BJP will do it for them. It's happy days for the CPM now because in the long run, the Muslim League, which actually protects the core strength of the UDF, wouldn't stick with a weak Congress when it’s faced with a rising BJP.
On the other hand, the Kerala Congress of the Syrian Christians wouldn't have any ideological problem in joining hands with the BJP as the latter gets closer to a possible tipping point. If both the Muslim League and the Kerala Congress desert the Congress, it will end up as a weak provincial party. Its inherent factionalism will further wreck it further.
Although it sounds good for the CPM and the Left, in the long run it will only aid the BJP, whose rise will not be good for the state.
Therefore, to fight the BJP, Kerala has to retain its bipolarity. That's the only protection that the state has against the communal forces. Oomen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala have certainly compromised with them and have paid the price, but the Congress is the only secular, socialist, democratic alternative the state has. Putting pressure on the Congress should be to cleanse it and not to liquidate it. Otherwise, it will be terribly bad for Kerala's politics.
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