Kerala : Meanwhile in Kerala, BJP rises
Far away from Bihar, Kerala civic elections give BJP a reason to smile
Even as a debate is raging about BJP’s performance in Bihar and its impact on national politics, far away from New Delhi, performance in Kerala panchayat polls gives the party a reason to cheer. The Panchayat polls 2015 would go down in Kerala’s political history as the one which is slowly but surely transforming the two-front Congress/Left politics of Kerala into a three front one with a BJP led coalition emerging as an alternate third front catapulted a third party to the folds of power. This 60 year political status quo of Kerala is changing. Being a BJP party worker in Kerala has been probably the least rewarding job in Bharateeya politics for decades. Indeed it has never won an Assembly or Lok Sabha seat, and so this is indeed a record performance.
Local body elections in Kerala are a precursor to the State Assembly elections since its always just a few months before them. In 2010, the Congress led UDF wrested more than 65 per cent of seats in the local body elections and then went on to win the Assembly elections of 2011. And so these elections will be a precursor to Assembly elections in 2016.
But these elections are interesting to the BJP also for a very different reason. Following as it does the Bihar elections, the contrasts are interesting and worth talking about. The Kerala BJP President Muralidharan came out against the beef issue early on and the BJPs narrative was predominantly about Development and used local leaders. Its tie up with the SNDP also meant that it was attracting the Ezhava voter – a traditional left voter. In comparison, The Bihar campaign of the BJP started with a development and prosperity theme aimed at cutting across caste and religion lines and inexplicably veered away into communalism and other retrograde themes – distancing the BJP from its own positions that connected well with people in 2014 and catapulted Narendra Modi and the BJP into Government.
And so it is that at a time when the BJP is receiving brickbats from its so-called secularists and human rights activists, Malayalis seem to waking up to this third option. And, though a visibly strong anti-incumbency current saw the LDF making an impressive show defeating the Congress led UDF, this definitely cannot called a wave as the Congress-led front managed a face-saving performance in panchayat level and shared the 14 district panchayats equally with LDF. It looks like Kerala does not want to lean on to right or left again, and that it would like to have a share of the national political scene as well.
Let’s look at the results. While the Congress led UDF got 368 of 941 panchayats, the Left (LDF) won 542. In corporations, LDF clearly won Kollam, Thrissur and Kozhikode while UDF retained Kochi. It was a hung situation in Thiruvananthapuram where the BJP staged its historical highest performance by winning 35 of 100 seats and coming ahead of Congress which won only 21, and LDF 43. Similarly, in the newly-formed Kannur Corporation, it is a tie with LDF and UDF winning 27 each. It is the only corporation where the BJP didn’t get a seat. While LDF won 42 municipalities, UDF got 40 and the BJP 1.
One turnout of the election is that many local bodies are facing a hung situation because of the performance of the BJP. In Thiruvananthapuram, LDF could not get a clear majority because the BJP clinched 35 seats, a rocket rise from its 2010 tally of six. In Thrissur too, the scene is the same with the BJP bagging six seats.
In fact, the emergence of the BJP is clear, coming as it does on the heel of the Aruvikaree by-election just a while ago where it had increased its vote share and caused the favoured Left candidate to loose. But its growth now to being of relevance and seat winner, and therefore a real player in State politics is going to be decided in how it evolves and rolls out its strategy in the next few months. The performance of the Narendra Modi Government in coming months and its renewed focus on Development and Economy is key to the prospects of the BJP in Kerala. Its tie-up with SNDP is a first step to moving its agenda from its traditional Hindu plank to more development and economic needs to be tested and electorally become relevant and a game-changer, and possibly attract other parties either in post or pre-poll alliances.
These forthcoming Assembly elections are crucial for all three parties which Kerala represents—Congress only hope is in 2016, for the Left it remains the last hope of political relevance in Bharateeya politics after the TMC stripped West Bengal from its control and for the BJP its efforts at opening its account in Kerala. Though these recent results victory makes LDF more confident to face the upcoming Assembly elections, it’s far from being a sure thing. The Congress led UDF will face all the issues of an incumbent government with its set of scams like Solar, Bar bribing etc.
So while the country analyses Bihar and BJP, in gods own country it’s possible that a new political narrative is being written. 2016 promises to be a milestone of an election for Keralites and possibly the BJP! Stay tuned!
Rajeev Chandrasekhar (The writer is a Member of Parliament)
The BJP made a giant leap in Kerala in the recent Local Bodies polls with a phenomenal increase in vote-share, from 6.25 per cent to 13.28 per cent.
When Local Self Government Bodies (LSGB) poll results came in on November 7, 2015, both CPI (M)-led Opposition, Left Democratic Front (LDF) and Congress-led ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) were taken by surprise. Their apple carts were upset; BJP’s sterling performance was not even in their remotest of imagination. The UDF did bit the dust while the LDF could hardly save the face. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) suffered heavy setback in Malappuram, the party’s stronghold. BJP widened its footprint in major Municipal Corporations and Municipalities while it wrested power in several Gram Panchayats. In the capital city, BJP tally is 35; BJP had only 6 Councillors in the erstwhile Thiruvananthapuram Corporation Council. In Kozhikode Corporation Council, BJP strength rose from 0 to 7. In Thrissur Corporation, BJP elevated its figure from 2 to 6. In the newly formed Kannur Municipal Corporation, even though BJP came out empty handed, in Kochi Corporation, party maintained its tally of 2. Total number of Corporation Councillors rose from 9 to 51; Municipal Councillors from 78 to 236. Gram Panchayat members jumped from 380 to 936. In Block Panchayats and Zilla Panchayats, BJP strength rose from 7 to 21 and 1 to 3 respectively. Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur and Kannur Corporations and 21 Municipal Councils ended up with hung bodies.
Increase in the BJP vote share was phenomenal. It rose from 6.25 per cent of 2010 LSGB elections to 13.28 per cent in 2015. LDF dip was from 39.96 per cent to 37.36 per cent while UDF dip was from 45.55 per cent to 37.23 per cent. BJP State Chief V Muraleedharan said, the election results proved that those who try to write off BJP can no longer survive in Kerala. People voted for BJP discarding the false propaganda against Modi and the BJP.
In Thiruvananthapuram, BJP is the principal Opposition party having 35 seats in the 100 seats Corporation Council. In the 52 seat Palakkad Municipality, BJP has emerged as the largest party with 24 seats; UDF and LDF stand second and third respectively. Under the 50 per cent woman reservation, BJP’s contribution is 15 lady Councillors to the Council of the capital city. Zilla Mahila Morcha Chief Simi Jyothish is one among them.
BJP is the principal Opposition party in five Municipalities. They are Kodungalloor, Thrippunithura, Kasaragod, Thanur and Shoranur. In the erstwhile CPI (M) bastion of Kodungalloor, BJP is the single largest party with 16 in the 44 seat Municipality. Even though LDF enjoys majority, CPI (M) and CPI tally is 13 and 10 respectively. In Thrippunithura Municipality, the capital of the former Kochi royal kingdom, BJP is the main Opposition party with 13 seats in the 49 Member Council; Congress has to content with a humiliating 9. This is the first time that BJP’s tally went above 2 in Thrippunithura. In Kasaragod, BJP, with 16 seats, is the principal Opposition party. BJP’s strength is crucial in 15 Municipalities where Councils remain hung with either LDF or UDF as the largest group.
The voters in Malappuram District, the citadel of IUML, taught the party a grave lesson which they can never forget. UDF, with IUML as a constituent, could win only 54 out of 94 Gram Pachayats. Last time, UDF ruled in 88 out of 100 Panchayats, district had 7 Municipalities and 6 of them went to UDF. This time there are 12 Municipalities and UDF could win only in 9 of them. No Front can rule Parappanangadi Municipality, formed to appease IUML, sans BJP’s nod. BJP bagged 12 seats in Gram Panchayats belonging to Malampuzha Assembly Constituency represented by CPI (M) veteran and LoP VS Achuthanandan.
BJP’s gains assume significant colour since it fought against all sorts of onslaughts from both Fronts. BJP-SNDP understanding at grass root level has contributed a lot towards BJP’s sterling performance in the State. SNDP General Secretary Vellapally Nateshan has acknowledged it. He said BJP’s victories are proud achievements. He added that the party which SNDP is going to launch with the support of other Hindu organisations would join hands with BJP and the combine would be a crucial force in the next Assembly election. BJP leader V. Muraleedharan shared Vellapally’s observations. Significantly BJP lost hundreds of seats by wafer thin difference from the winners; in most cases it is even less than 20 votes.
—T Satisan, Kerala
Attempt to Free B’lore Blast Accused
Bengaluru blast accused Thadiyantavide Nazeer’s confidant Shahanas PA was arrested by Kochi City Police. A handcuff key was seized by the Kerala Police from the home of the accused.
When Bengaluru blast accused Thadiyantavide Nazeer’s confidant Shahanas PA (22) was arrested by Kochi City Police on November 14, it opened a shocking Pandora’s box. Police seized seven letters and a handcuff key from him. Six of the seven letters were sent by Nazeer to Shahanas. One letter contained the names of at least eight witnesses who could be made hostile. Another letter penned by Nazeer showed codes to use for phone conversation. Apparently Shahanas is a frequent visitor to Bengaluru jail, obviously to meet Nazeer. He is a native of Perumbavoor on the outskirts of Kochi.