As many powerful Hindu social outfits led by SNDP join hands with the BJP, the political terrain of Kerala is set for a major transformation.
A meeting between BJP President Amit Shah and Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam (A powerful social organisation of Kerala) General Secretary Vellapally Natesan of last month stirred a political storm in Kerala. The Kerala political discourse became more turbulent when he again met Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah last week. Natesan, after his meeting with both leaders, indicated that a political realignment in Kerala is imminent. Further, he said that he and his community (Ezhava community- most influential OBC group in Kerala) don’t think BJP is ‘untouchable’. The reaction of the Congress and the CPI (M) towards these meetings was bitter, especially of the latter. It has a point to worry; a political realignment in Kerala especially led by SNDP in favour of BJP would definitely dent its vote base, the Ezhava community. Since its early days the Ezhava community has been the back bone of communist movements in Kerala. Any change in this community’s stand indicates only one thing that it will be the beginning of the end of communist mass base in Kerala. Further, these meetings have great significance in the context of changing socio-political situation in the State.
For decades Kerala politics has been dominated by two political fronts, Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF) and CPI (M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF). Other political parties only changed the chemistry of these two fronts, frequently by changing loyalty from one to the other. But they never tried to form a new front. The BJP, though had a sizable vote share than other constituents of these fronts, never allowed to become part of any front; political untouchability in the name of so-called communalism was the reason. At the same time Indian Union Muslim league (IUML), the very political outfit which was the instrument of partition, has always been a part of this political jugalbandi in Kerala. Time to time in elections both these fronts (actually friends) ensured the defeat of BJP by cross voting wherever it had a chance to win. Due to such unscrupulous political black dealings, BJP never won a seat in Kerala. But, the victory of PC Thomas, from Muvattupuzha parliament constituency as NDA candidate in the 2004 general elections, proved that people, even from the minority communities are ready to vote for a BJP supported candidate. It is also true that people voted for BJP whenever and wherever it had even remote chance to win. It is evident from the past and recent electoral experiences. For example, last Lok Sabha election witnessed a jump in BJP’s vote share in the State, its candidate O Rajagopal finished second in Thiruvananthapuram parliament constituency. In Neyyattinkara assembly by poll BJP raised its tally from 6.1 per cent in 2011 to 23.6 per cent. In the recently concluded Aruvikkara by-election, BJP got 24 per cent votes- an unprecedented fivefold increase.
A third front, as asserted by Shri Natesan immediately after meeting BJP leadership, has great significance in the aforesaid context. It is significant because many social organisations are now open to have an alliance with the BJP. The meeting of leaders of KPMS (A powerful SC organisation), VPMS and SCES with BJP president last month also needs to be seen in this background. The Ezhava and SC population together constitutes more than 50 per cent of Hindu population in the state. As Hindus constitute 54 per cent of the total population, realignment in the Hindu voting pattern especially of backward class will definitely help BJP. Traditionally the Ezhava and other backward communities are the followers of the Communist parties. Now such communities are willing to think for an alternative, their longing for change would definitely help BJP to emerge as an alternative.
In the meanwhile, CPI (M) Politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai admitted in a recent interaction with media that BJP-SNDP combination can make inroads in Southern Kerala. The news of BJP-SNDP alliance created a political earthquake in Kerala that itself shows its impact. Sheer attention given by media for the meetings is another indication of its political implications. Leaders of left and UDF started fierce attack against Vellapally Natesan and his family targeting personally. Another trend is the re-emergence of old communal fear syndrome leaders with no exception either LDF or UDF warn that communal BJP will succeed in Kerala. And they also express hope that the alliance will fail. But both these fronts conveniently forget the real communalisation of Kerala which is taking place under the stewardship of IUML one of the constituents of UDF. Interestingly their appeasement policies only brought the communities like Ezhava and other backward classes to the BJP fold.
The fears of these fronts are not baseless. Electoral statistics and community combinations indicate this factor. In the 2011 assembly election, BJP got 6.03 per cent of the total polled votes but in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections it got 10.38 per cent votes. BJP membership increased dramatically in the last membership drive and touched 22 lakhs. Apart from this the influx from other parties to BJP increased many fold in the recent past especially from CPI (M) bastions. Already BJP has significant influence among the members of Nairs (An upper caste of Kerala, which constitute around 15 per cent of the Kerala population). At present a sizable number of the Party’s vote is coming from this community. Ezhava community constitutes nearly 24 per cent of the Kerala population, and SNDP Yogam has wide network in Kerala, it has over 4,700 branches. And the population of SC community is 9 per cent. All these factors together can form a formidable force. Further, if any of the Kerala Congress groups decides to join this alliance, it will become a decisive force in more than 100 constituencies.
Form and combination of such an alliance will become clear only after the local body elections scheduled in November first week. 941 Gram Panchayats, 154 Block Panchayats, 14 District Panchyats, 86 Municipalities, and 6 Corporations are going to elect their representatives in this two phased election process. BJP and its allies are planning to field candidates in more than 20,000 constituencies out of total 21,871. Last local body elections it contested only in 7,000 constituencies; increase in the number of contesting seats itself shows the magnitude of change sweeping in Kerala. At present BJP and its new allies have great chance to become a decisive factor in most of the local bodies. In fact the process of forming new party initiated by SNDP Yogam is underway. But according to the reports, arrangements are almost completed to contest the local body election based on a seat sharing arrangement at local level, not only with SNDP, but with other organisations also. Whatever may be the result, it is certain that it will set the trend for forthcoming assembly election; if it is in favor of BJP it will change the political landscape of Kerala forever.
Omens indicate that, after long decades, people are now seeking change. They are also ready to rally behind the lotus flag. And they may not heed to the words of left and congress any more. Perhaps they may have realised the hollowness of communal rhetoric of the Left- Right twins. Breaking its isolation from rest of the country, Kerala will soon emerge as a state which is driven by a nationalist force. Kerala is the only major state which failed to elect a representative for BJP in the last parliament election. But that isolation will not last for long, the 2016 assembly elections may end the dry season for BJP in the State and the lotus will bloom in the monsoon water.
P Sandeep (The writer is a Delhi based social activist and coordinator of Vikas Bharati Bishunpur)