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Kerala : Beyond Euphoria

C K Viswanath

Anti-incumbency factor has always been playing a dominant role in Kerala politics. The civil society of Kerala is expressing a volatile electoral behaviour. The May 2016 election verdict has given some important political signs. The Left democratic front led by CPIM has won a huge majority in the election. The election victory was inevitable for CPIM. BJP has got a seat in the Kerala assembly. This is the first time, BJP is getting a seat. And they are happy for opening the account. United Democratic Front led by Congress has suffered a huge defeat. In Kerala, before the election, both fronts were fighting against NDA, against their hindutva politics. But, Kerala society is changing now. Sangh Parivar has now, much to the dismay of Congress and Communists, a strong presence in Kerala society. If anything Congress led UDF has lost its base among minority communities—Muslims and Christians. In Kerala politics and society, Minority communities are very powerful, politically and socially. They are the part of mainstream society. This is one of the peculiar characteristics of Kerala society. Kerala left's main base is among the Hindu subaltern communities. BJP is trying hard to garner the support of these subaltern communities. The result : some of the short term and long term implications on Kerala body politic. In short term, LDF has benefited. They have got a support from the minority communities. But, BJP's influence is increasing. And the UDF is also in crisis. The secular political platform of politics has a strong challenge from the culturalist politics of BJP. The competitive secular political platform dominated by LDF and UDF is in crisis. The new political front led by NDA can influence the voters in a big way. And the idea of Kerela dominated by these secular-left political forces in post-independent Kerala politics is to have a fight with the cultural nationalist politics of Hindutva politics.

The whole world is shaping the present day politics in a particular kind of cultural nationalist populism. An interesting political scenario is developing, left wing or right wing popular political imaginations—Jermy Crobyn and Bernie Sanderson in UK and USA and Marine Lepen in France. The economic disparity is widening. Elections after elections are reacting in a particular electoral behaviour, when Scottish and English nationalism got a big boost, Labour politics faced the humiliating defeat. In Indian context, this is a political fact; language of politics is in this political transformation. The post-independent nation making politics led by Congress has almost disappeared. Development, after all, is in a hegemonic language.

Votes and seats of the political fronts in Kerala-2016 assembly election :
Left Democratic Front :           43.31 %, [seats 91]
United Democratic Front :       38.86% [seats 47]
National Democratic Alliance :     15.1% [seat 1]
Independent :      [ seat 1]
Vote share of BJP : 
2006 -4.84%
2011 -6.06%
2016 -15.01%.

The picture shows the BJP's increasing vote share in assembly elections. Anyway, BJP has been increasing its vote share in all these elections. They are in second position in seven assembly constituencies in Kerala. And this time they have obtained political alliances. Even if they couldn't win the assembly election, Sangh Parivar has a very powerful influence on the Kerala society. Sakhas are so active in different parts of Kerala these days. And they have been waging a violent political battle with CPIM in Kannur, a traditionally left dominated district of Kerala.

In 1957, Kerala shocked the world by installing the communist govt through elections. The cold war period and the communist victory had impact in the national and international politics. In 1959, the communist govt was dismissed. The Kerala model election victory had made a huge impact in Indian communist movement as well. But the alternative path of left government and its balance sheet has not given much enthusiasm in recent times. The Nehruvian nation making was the strong undercurrent of society. The present era Left democratic govt in Kerala has to face the Hindutva politics of BJP in Delhi. And once much discussed Kerala model is almost outdated. New issues affecting Kerala society have not yet been discussed : All over the world, Political parties or political fronts are busy discussing about the climate policy. Even in 1957, EMS govt had faced the puzzle. What he said about it? The immediate relief to the people, the task is always in theoretical confusion. When is socialism? The socialist gap and political praxis, later, had reached the stage of political sectarianism, power struggles. After the collapse of Soviet communism, the cold war era left politics is everywhere questioned. Very few political parties in the world like CPIM have been surviving. The present era dominated by market reforms, in that context, demands precise definition of the development. Kerala is to address the power crisis, unemployment issues, infrastructure, urban transportation etc. in a proper way. Green jobs are a pet theme in the period of climate change. But, the eco-consciousness is in conflict with the consumerist life style. Migrant labourers form eastern India are doing the hard jobs of Kerala. The middle class consumerist life style has transformed the traditional working class constituencies. Left's winning combination is the division of anti-left voting block. In near future shift may take place in a much sharper way that is the polarisation of the secular-left political space and cultural nationalist politics. This, in reality, is changing the idea of Kerala.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 51, Jun 26 - Jul 2, 2016