HOME > SOCIETY > POLITICS > KERALA ELECTION: Why BJP is in as much trouble as the Congress

KERALA ELECTION: Why BJP is in as much trouble as the Congress

On the face of it, things went well for the Bharatiya Janata Party yesterday in Kerala.

After decades of efforts at break into a two-party system, the saffron outfit finally managed to win its first seat in the state legislative assembly this time with party veteran O Rajagopal finding luck, and votes, in Nemom constituency near the capital Trivandrum.

Rajagopal trounced his nearest rival V Sivankutty of the CPIM by polling 67,813 votes against Sivankutty’s 59,142. V Surendran Pillai of the Congress-led UDF polled just 13,860 votes — by far the lowest total of any UDF candidate in any of the 140 assembly constituencies.

The results have proved that Congress High Command Sonia Gandhi severely misread the impact of rising BJP influence in the state.

Under the counsel of state chief minister Oommen Chandy, the Congress High Command was reportedly inclined to believe that the BJP’s rise would hit the Left parties more as they got about 70% of their votes from the various Hindu communities in the state. The BJP’s rise would leave the Congress — it was assumed — largely unscathed as it got only about 40% of its votes from Hindu segments.

However, as should have been obvious from local body election results last year, this was a brilliant miscalculation. The BJP managed to make big inroads only into the upper caste and rich Hindu segments, while leaving working class Hindus — mostly OBC Ezhavas and Dalits — largely untouched.

This was terrible news for Gandhi’s party as it was the upper castes and richer segments of Ezhavas who supplied Congress’ 40% traditional Hindu votes.

While five years ago, 33% of Ezhavas voted for the Congress, this time, the proportion has fallen to a mere 12% according to exit poll results.

This has been accompanied by a proportionate shift of Ezhava votes to the BJP.

Five years ago, only 9% of them voted for the saffron party, while this time, a full 30% did according to exit polls.

To make matters worse, all through this churn, the Left parties’ share of votes among Ezhavas have remained unchanged at about 57%.

Similarly, while 46% of upper caste Hindus voted for the Congress last time, the proportion fell to about 25% this time. At the same time, the BJP raised its stake in this section from 17% five years ago to above 40%.

Add to this an anti-incumbency factor that affected Congress’ minority vote base at least slightly, and the Congress was set up for the perfect storm.

DARK LINING TO BJP’S SILVER CLOUD

All this shifting and swaying may sound very positive for the BJP and ominous to the Congress Party, and it is too. But these headlines hide a disturbing fact for the BJP — it has only been able to tap into Congress’ Hindu vote base, and has practically left the Left’s votes untouched.

As a result, while the BJP raised its vote share from about 5.6% in 2011 to almost 15% in 2016, the LDF’s vote share hardly declined — moving from 43.6% to 43.1%. However, the real damage was borne by the Congress alliance, which saw its share fall to 38.8% from around 45.8%.

THE COLOR OF VOTES

So, the question now arises – does it really matter where the BJP gets its votes from as long as it does?

The answer is yes.

A failure to attract the powerful Ezhava community — even after the Prime Minister himself gracing their holy Mutt ahead of the election — has to unsettle the top brass of the party.

Without winning over the Ezhavas — twice as big as any other Hindu group in the state — there is zero chance for the BJP to destroy the Left front in Kerala or to create a Hindu front.

The Ezhavas — also known as Thiyya (Kshatriya) — have been the driving force behind the Left movement since it took hold in Kerala starting about 100 years ago.

Even for the RSS, a section of Ezhavas comprise the majority of the street-level cadre in Kerala.

Their dedication and willingness to make sacrifices in the name of ideology and organizations — coming from their martial past — make them the ideal ‘party workers’.

When RSS activists in Kannur butcher an CPIM activist, it’s almost always a Thiyya mother who loses her son, and the same holds true when a CPIM gang hacks an RSS worker.

WHY EZHAVAS SUPPORTED LEFT

It has surprised pundits that the Ezhavas continued to vote for the Left front in huge numbers even after Vellappalli Nateshan, head of SNDP — the top Ezhava organization — floated his own party and joined the NDA alliance.

Both the Congress and the BJP — who were banking on a shift in Ezhava votes — were sorely disappointed.

Though Vellappalli’s new outfit managed to win substantial number of votes — going as high as 33,000 in some constituencies — the votes seem to have come from the Congress’ ranks.

This was surprising given that other groups similarly targeted by the BJP reacted as per NDA and Congress’ calculations. A case in point is the Sulthan Bathery (Sultan’s Battery) constituency in Kerala’s tribal district of Wayanad. Here, the NDA fielded influential tribal leader CK Janu. She attracted a large section of scheduled tribe voters — who traditionally favored the LDF — and ensured a Congress victory despite widespread poverty and corruption in the area (see chart).sultan-battery

It is perhaps one of the only two constituencies where the UDF’s majority actually increased this time compared to five years ago. The Congress candidate won with a majority of 11,200 votes over the Left candidate even as BJP-supported Janu scooped up nearly 28,000 votes. Five years ago, the NDA candidate could only manage 8,800 votes.

Both Chandy and the BJP were hoping to repeat this success across the Ezhava belt, which is practically the entire state of Kerala, but the community stood solidly behind the Left this time, upending the calculations.

VS FACTOR

The reason is not far to seek. VS Achyuthanandan, the 92-year-old former Chief Minister of Kerala who led the Left campaign, endeared himself to the Ezhavas not just because he was one, but also because he had demonstrated an unprecedented willingness to take on corrupt interests in the state.

Achyuthanandan also proved himself to be an iconoclast and a rebel — two traits that define the Ezhava identity in the state.

The ex-trade union leader’s uncompromising, straightforward approach — which had almost won the Left an unprecedented consecutive second term in government five years ago — seemed all the more attractive after half a decade filled with allegations of corruption and nepotism under the Congress.

In short, the Ezhavas seemed to have voted for an Ezhava Chief Minister, while giving the go by to the newly formed Ezhava party.

ROAD AHEAD FOR BJP

The latest results have thrown a wrench into BJP’s plans to emerge as the Hindu alternative to the Christian- and Muslim-dominated (Congress-led) United Democratic Front in Kerala.

Pitching itself as the savior of Hindus came naturally to the BJP as the position fit well with its Hindutva ideology.

However, without Ezhavas, there can be no Hindu front of any consequence in the state.

The BJP, therefore, is left with two options in Kerala.

First is to wait for the Left Front to alienate the Ezhavas, and the second is to try and become what the Congress Party used to be — the party of the ‘haves’ — the upper caste Hindus, the Nazrani Christians and the richer sections among the Ezhavas and the Muslims.

To do the latter would require the party to totally reorient its campaign in the state, though a small beginning has already been made.

However, it could also wait for a few months to see whether the LDF ultimately is able to fulfill the expectations of its Ezhava support base, especially with regard to delivering VS as the Chief Minister.

VS, being a sort of ‘perpetual rebel’, does not enjoy great equations with his party’s big wigs, who suffer him only because of his immense popularity among Ezhavas and non-Ezhavas alike.

If the CPIM goes for a non-VS chief minister today — as is likely — it would give a chance for Vellappalli and the BJP to say ‘I told you so’ to the Ezhava voters.

However, the CPIM could dent this attack by appointing Pinarayi Vijayan, a Thiyya, as the Chief Minister. Vijayan, though not half a popular as VS, comes from the family of a toddy tapper and has excellent credentials as a self-made leader.

However, he also faces some unproven corruption charges, and is seen as being too soft on — and willing to compromise with — all sorts of non-Hindu extremists. VS, on the other hand, is seen as a blunt talker who takes on extremists — whether from the minorities or from the Hindutva side — with equal vigor.

Depending on whether Vijayan continues to be ‘extra soft’ on extremists of a particular hue and how well he handles the administration, the BJP could have a chance (or not) at reviving their ‘Hindu Unity’ plank in the state.

Otherwise, to continue to grow, it would have to undergo a severe image and course correction and pitch itself as a development alternative to a corrupt Congress Party — something it has successfully done in the North.

Follow ULTRA.news
VENGARA Election Results: Left Front vote up 20%, Cong, BJP down The results of the bypoll held in Vengara assembly constituency in Kerala have confirmed the Congress-led UDF's worries about losing support in the southern state.The results also showed that the BJP suffered a decline in popularity in Kerala in the last 18 months or so....
BJP places gruesome banners of Kerala killings in New Delhi https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1669117573148867&set=pcb.1336920326413229&type=3&theater&ifg=1   In an attempt to drum up public support for its fight with the Left Front in Kerala, the BJP's Delhi unit has in the heart of the national capital place...
UP BJP spokesperson says Taj Mahal is ‘controversial’; Was a Shiv Temple Anila Singh, one of the official spokespersons of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh, today said that Taj Mahal was a controversial monument and that its roots stretched back to a temple of Shiva.Singh, who is often on TV to defend the Yogi Adityanath government, wa...
NDTV officially denies sale to Ajay Singh India's oldest English television news broadcaster NDTV officially denied that it has been sold to Ajay Singh, the promoter of SpiceJet."We wish to inform you that the promoters of the Company have not entered into any agreement for sale of their stake in the Company to any ...
Stock Exchange seeks clarification from NDTV on Ajay Singh’s stake-buy NDTV Promoter Prannoy Roy with former PM Manmohan SinghThe National Stock Exchange has again sought a clarification from NDTV after the Indian Express reported that SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh was now the biggest shareholder in the media company.UPDATE: NDTV has denied ...
CPIM activists attacked for arranging Hindu-Muslim marriage in Kerala Injured CPIM worker DileeshTensions are on the rise between the ruling CPI-M and the Social Democratic Party of India in Ambalapuzha in Kerala after Left activists were attacked, allegedly for arranging the wedding of a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl.The SDPI is second only...
Police arrest biggest group of illegal Bangladeshis in Kerala; 35 nabbed Police in Kerala have arrested 35 people in Malappuram district on suspicions of being illegal Bangladeshi citizens staying in India.The arrests were made in Edavannapara in the Muslim-dominated district.Police sources said that the arrests are likely to lead to an accel...
Modi should decide on Khattar’s resignation, Subramanian Swamy Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar seems to be facing mounting pressure to step down, with BJP leader Subramanian Swamy hinting that the CM does not enjoy total support of BJP leaders."The question of (Khattar's) resignation has to be taken up by the prime minister, ...
Liquor shops in Kerala start installing token system Kerala's snaking long queues in front of its liquor shops -- the state's only source of alcohol after bars were banned in 2014 -- are almost as famous as the backwaters and beaches, but some relief may be on the horizon for hapless liquor buyers.As there are only about 340 li...
Car driver fined Rs 5,000 for blocking bus from overtaking A medical student in Kerala was fined Rs 5,000 and his car impounded for three days after the driver of a State Road Transport Corporation bus complained that the student forced the bus to go slow.Faizal, from Azhiyoor near Mahe, was accused of blocking the way and forcing th...
Kannur Airport: 95% of airside, 90% of cityside work completed Kerala's fourth international airport at Kannur is very close to completion, with 95% of the airside works and 90% of cityside work completed, the government said today.Airside refers to the runway, bays, traffic control tower and so on, while city-side works refer to civilia...
Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV gets derated by Malayalis Republic TV, the channel launched by Arnab Goswami -- the former editor of Times Now -- has come in for a barrage of criticism on social media after Malayalis took offence to what has been portrayed as repeated attempts by the channel to tarnish the reputation of the state.Th...
Nitish, Lalu and the ‘Post Truth’ Politics of Bihar In the so-called 'post truth' politics, facts and ideology do not have a place - it is emotion and rhetoric that counts.When Nitish Kumar decided to part ways with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in late 2013 opposing the elevation of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial cand...
Shiv Sena suspects Pakistan’s role behind gau-rakshaks Ratcheting up its attack on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, fellow saffron outfit Shiv Sena today dared cow vigilantes to fight for the country in Kashmir and asked if Pakistan was behind such attackers.India has seen two waves of vigilante attacks targeted at those who ea...
‘Comrade in burqa’ divides ‘progressives’ in Kerala A photo of a young Muslim girl working with the Students Federation of India, the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has reopened questions around whether the Left movement in Kerala is straying from its ideological roots and commitments.Ameera Khan from ...
Kerala Muslim girl draws fire for marrying Hindu boy A Muslim girl who got married to a Hindu boy has come under heavy fire on social media for causing distress to her parents.Many of her former co-religionists found her decision unpalatable."You have sacrificed the eternal for the fleeting, not because you lack education, but ...
Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mavani, others organize anti-lynching platform Prominent activists such as Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mavani, Tehseen Poonawalla and Shehla Rashid have formed an anti-lynching front in the background of vigilante attacks in the name of religious symbols like the cow.Under the banner of the National Campaign Against Mob Lync...
O Panneerselvam says to look at alliance with BJP soon O Paneerselvam, the ex-chief minister of Tamil Nadu and the leader of a prominent faction within the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (All India Anna Dravida Advancement Front) has indicated that his faction is open to an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.Panne...
Ravi Shankar Prasad tears into Mamata for ‘forcing’ family to abandon BJP BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad today attacked West Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee using very sharp words for what he said was the pressure brought on the adivasi family to renege its connection with his party and become supporters of Bannerjee's Trinamool Congress....
Cow Violence: Amit Shah says will bring situation under control Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah said the state governments run by the party will bring people who commit violence in the name of the cow under control."Trust us, we will bring this under control very soon," Shah said in an interview with India Today television....