Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kerala assembly bypoll: Rising BJP is a threat for Left - CPM may see a Bengal-like situation in Kerala

A five-fold leap in votes for BJP in an assembly by-election in Kerala has made the poll results noteworthy, nationally. If this trend continues CPM may see a Bengal-like situation in Kerala — a big erosion of votes and cadre confidence resulting in electoral marginalisation. Despite a terribly sullied image and track record of scandals, ruling Congress won the Aruvikkara bypolls in Thiruvananthapuram district with a margin of 10,000 votes because instead of CPM, the anti-incumbency votes went to BJP. What is shocking is the number of votes BJP polled: 34,145 up from 7,690 votes in 2011 assembly polls or 14,890 in 2014 Lok Sabha election. This new trend in the short term helps Congress win elections but in the long term will make BJP a major force in Kerala.
The Sangh Parivar could never open its account in Kerala even when it began winning in neighbouring Tamil Nadu since 1984. All that is changing. In the last Lok Sabha polls, veteran O Rajagopal of BJP almost won the Thiruvananthapuram seat losing to Shashi Tharoor by just 14, 501 votes. The Left candidate, Bennett Abraham, was a poor third. That result was attributed to the Modi wave. But a closer look would reveal that most of the anti-incumbency votes against the Congress-led United Democratic Front government actually went the BJP way. Sure, when BJP polls the anti-government votes, Congress gains keeping its base intact. But, it doesn’t take long for BJP to reach the tipping point.
Sensing an opportunity now, BJP fielded Rajagopal in the bypolls too. Though BJP did not come second, the result proved it is gaining hugely at the expense of the Left. In comparison to the 2011 elections, about 34,000 more votes were polled and most of these new votes have gone to BJP because Congress and the Left have merely retained their earlier tallies.
So, the real story of this bypoll is the decline of CPM which has certain similarities with the Left’s debilitating losses in Bengal. Apart from the 35-year-old anti-incumbency, the Left in Bengal faced a serious crisis of credibility when it ordered the police to fire at people opposed to forcible land acquisition. The tide turned completely when after the Rizwanur Rahman murder, the Muslims felt that Marxists only want their votes and not their lives. When the core vote bank of the Left — the poor, the minorities and the marginalized — shifted their allegiance, party villages became inaccessible fortresses of Trinamool Congress.
Asimilar process has begun in Kerala. Congress-led UDF is seen as a minority conglomerate. It is led by a Christian, with allies Muslim League and Kerala Congress representing the interests of their respective clergy. For long, CPM was the biggest Hindu party in Kerala with leaders, though godless, hailing from the influential Ezhava and Nair communities. The other backward class Ezhavas are the single largest community in the state and CPM has not been able to nurture a new leader from this community that has traditionally supported the party. The biggest mass leader of Kerala now is undoubtedly, the 92-year-old VS Achuthananthan, an Ezhava. But every time CPM attacks Achuthananthan, it invariably pushes Ezhavas away from the party.
It is in this context, BJP becomes the party of choice for Hindus, primarily upper caste Nairs and also OBCs like Ezhavas. Just as the core voters deserted CPM in Bengal, if Nairs and Ezhavas vote for BJP as Hindus against minority consolidation within the UDF, the Left could get hit badly in Kerala.
News Credits ET July 1 2015

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