The BJP has in-effect defeated the Left front in the Aruvikkara by-election and helped the Congress win by cutting into the Hindu votes in the constituency.
While the Congress candidate KS Shabarinathan got 56,448 votes, the runner-up, M Vijayakumar of the Left, got just 46,320 votes. BJP’s O Rajagopal got 34,145 votes. The Congress was expecting a victory margin of only 5,000 at best.
The Congress-led UDF’s vote-share fell from 49% in 2011 to just 40% in the current election, but its margin of victory remained largely the same at around 10,000 votes due to the fragmentation of the opposition votes.
The BJP increased its votes in this constituency from just 7,688 in the last election to a humongous 34,000 this time, hitting LDF very badly and ensuring a smooth win for the Congress-led UDF.
DISILLUSIONMENT OF LEFT VOTERS
The results are likely to force the Left parties to rexamine their current stance, which is criticized by BJP as pro-minority and anti-Hindu.
The Left parties get most of their votes from liberals and the Ezhava and Dalit communities, but maintain a Congress-like approach of reconciliation and accommodation towards all communities whether they vote for the Left or not.
The CPIM, for example, makes sure that all communities — whether or not they vote for them — are represented equally in party leadership positions. In fact, CPIM’s leadership positions are often allocated disproportionately towards communities that don’t vote for the left.
Till recently, most of the top leadership of CPIM was drawn exclusively from upper caste Hindus, even though traditionally, upper caste Hindu votes have largely gone to the Congress Party. Of late, however, Ezhava leaders like VS Achyuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan have come into prominence in the party, though party policies remain the same.
Dalits, especially, are poorly represented in CPIM’s leadership, while communities that vote mostly for the Congress and the BJP have strong representation in the CPIM’s higher posts. This has led to a feeling of alienation among Dalit and Ezhava voters.
In contrast, the BJP and the Congress Party ensure that their leadership comprises almost exclusively of members from these communities.
POLITICS OF SPOILS
Another factor is the new ‘politics of spoils’. When a government backed by a particular community gets power in Kerala, the community’s organizations get many spoils (such as licenses to run government-funded schools, preference in certain government jobs and so on.)
This politics of spoils has worked very well for most parties, except for the Left, which considers this to be ‘beneath’ its dignity.
Because of this, communities that vote for the Left tend to lose out in the race for government licenses and similar privileges. Many left voters therefore feel that they are not ‘getting anything’ when Left rules, while other parties always give special consideration to their vote-banks when they are in power.
The BJP has been trying to win over Hindus who vote for Left parties by promising them special consideration, and these numbers indicate that many Left voters are willing to give a chance to the BJP.
Even the secular liberals from all communities, who have formed the ideological backbone of the Left parties, have been extremely critical of Left’s ‘soft approach’ to rising communalism.
Like the Congress, the CPIM also indulges in the practice of approaching religious leaders for seeking support before elections.
However, unlike Ezhavas and Dalits, the ‘secular liberals’ do not have the option of moving away to the BJP. The Aam Aadmi Party and Swaraj Abhiyan are expected to try to tap this constituency going forward.
LEFT IN DENIAL
Left leader and former finance minister of Kerala, Thomas Issac, accepted that some (Hindus) were moving towards “communal politics”, but refused to take the blame for it.
“The reason why people are moving to Hindu communal forces is not because of us, but because of the Congress Party’s policies,” he said.
The Congress Party has been accused of giving disproportionate benefits to the Muslim and Christian communities of Kerala, and the BJP has made the most of such allegations, and fanned the flames of discontent among Left voters.
However, the CPIM seems to be claiming that it is helpless in countering the Congress and the task must be carried out by the BJP.
VS Achyuthanandan was more forthcoming and said UDF’s victory was due to ‘minority appeasement’ by the Congress-led government.
|UDF (Cong)||LDF (Left)||BJP|
UDF TO WIN IN 2016?
The voting shift seen in Aruvikkara has given big hopes to the UDF, who are now projecting that they will be able to win the Kerala Assembly election for two times in a row – a never-before phenomenon. This is despite unprecedented corruption allegations against the government, including the chief minister.
Kerala voters have never voted the same party to power twice together. UDF leaders said they would win over 100 seats out of 140 (up from 71 at present) in next year’s elections.
Many of social media have also started congratulating Oommen Chandy for his victory in next year’s elections.
Indeed, if the same pattern of fragmentation of Hindu votes plays out across the state, the UDF could easily win about 120 seats in next year’s elections with less number of votes compared to 2011.