The Hindu CSDS-Lokniti Post-Poll Survey 2021

Kerala Assembly Elections | Sabarimala did not become an electoral issue

Devotees standing in a queue to have darshan at the Sabarimala temple. File Photo  

One of the many reasons for the defeat of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was believed to be the State government’s handling of the Sabarimala temple entry issue. In the run up to the 2019 elections there had been widespread opposition in Kerala to the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to allow women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple and the LDF government, which had tried to implement the top court’s order, was said to have borne the brunt of people’s unhappiness.

While the judges later referred the issue to a larger Bench and a final verdict is still pending, the fact that the issue had remained unresolved and the opposition Congress and the BJP kept up the pressure on the Pinarayi Vijayan government led to renewed speculation that the LDF’s electoral prospects might get affected once again. The Assembly election results and the LDF’s resounding victory, however, make it quite clear that the issue failed to make any dent to the Left’s prospects. The Lokniti-CSDS’s post poll survey in Kerala gives some indication as to why this happened.

image/svg+xml Assessment of the work done by the Pinarayi government Improved Deteriorated Remained the same No Response Medical facilities in government hospitals 73 17 5 5 Condition of government schools 72 17 4 7 Condition of roads 66 22 8 3 Supply of electricity 65 27 5 3 Supply of drinking water 52 32 10 7 Public bus/public transportation services 51 32 11 6 Law and order situation 39 36 19 6 Condition of farmers 30 29 29 12 Job opportunities 29 33 29 9 Condition of the fshing community 25 28 25 22 Table 4: Work done by Pinarayi government Note: Figures are percentages and may not total 100 due to rounding | Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey in Kerala during the 2021 Assembly elections People’s opposition to SC’s Sabarimala judgment increased compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections SC’s Sabarimala judgment Fully support it Somewhat support it Somewhat oppose it Fully oppose it No response 2021 All 11 6 6 58 19 2019 All 14 12 13 48 12 2021 Hindu Men 16 8 8 63 5 2019 Hindu Men 20 11 12 53 4 2021 Hindu Women 9 6 4 74 7 2019 Hindu Women 14 7 5 64 10

First and foremost, the survey found that the Sabarimala issue was simply not a top-of-the-mind issue for most voters any more. When respondents were asked an open-ended question about what issue had mattered to them the most while voting in the Assembly election, merely 1% said that they had voted on the basis of Sabarimala issue. Instead, development, government performance and corruption issues mattered more to the electorate.

Second, and more importantly, even though people continued to hold strong opinions about the Sabarimala issue, they do not seem to have punished the Left government for it, at least not in the same way they did in 2019. The survey found around two-thirds of the voters to be opposed to the Supreme Court’s Sabarimala judgment and only about two in every ten (17%) to be in support of it (Table 1).

image/svg+xml Opposition to the Sabarimala judgment however did not afect the LDF too adversely with many who were opposed to the judgment also voting for it, much more so than they had done in 2019 () Voted UDF Voted LDF Voted NDA Voted Others SC’s Sabarimala judgment Fully support it 24 (21) 68 (70) 5 (5) 4 (4) Somewhat support it 27 (50) 62 (44) 10 (1) 2 (6) Somewhat oppose it 32 (60) 62 (31) 4 (1) 2 (9) Fully oppose it 42 (47) 38 (26) 18 (25) 3 (2) No response 49 (62) 44 (24) 3 (13) 4 (1)

However, when we look at their voting preferences, we find that the LDF not only ended up netting a large share of votes of the minority that supported the SC’s judgment, it also ended up securing quite a fair share of votes of those opposed to the judgment. For instance, among the six of every ten (58%) who said that they fully opposed the Sabarimala verdict, the UDF got 42% of their votes and the LDF was very close behind at 38% (Table 2). Simply put, the UDF failed to sweep the sentiment against the judgment the way it did in 2019. Back then it had secured at least half the anti-verdict vote as per the Lokniti CSDS survey conducted then.

Of course, all this is not to say that the LDF government is going to have it easy going forward on the issue. This is because, even though the LDF did successfully manage to mute the Sabarimala issue this time, the survey also found that most people continue to be unhappy with the way it has dealt with the matter, in fact more so compared to two years ago.

image/svg+xml Most people expressed dissatisfaction with the LDF government’s handling of the Sabarimala issue Level of satisfaction with the LDF government’s handling of the Sabarimala temple entry issue Fully satisfed Somewhat satisfed Somewhat dissatisfed Fully dissatisfed No response Overall 11(14) 6(18) 8 (15) 54 (41) 21(13) Hindu Men 13 (21) 6 (16) 11(12) 64 (45) 6 (7) Hindu Women 9 (11) 7(13) 9(10) 67 (56) 9 (10)

Over two-thirds of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with the way the Vijayan government has handled the issue — an increase of around ten percentage points since 2019 (Table 3). Moreover, public opinion on the issue was found to have hardened further with both the general public and Hindus, in particular, taking an even stronger stand than they had in 2019. Whereas 48% had fully opposed the judgment in 2019, this time the figure was even higher at 58% (Table 1). Sabarimala may not have been an electoral issue this time but it is certainly likely to remain one of debate.

(The author is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS, Delhi)

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 10:35:37 AM |

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