Left, Right, Left?

May 16, 2016 01:41 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:10 pm IST

An emerging third player in a polarised political field can effect unpredictable changes to the electoral outcome. The Bharatiya Janata Party will not end the dominance of the two alliance formations in Kerala, the > Congress-led United Democratic Front and the > CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front , but may be set to alter the political scene in the State in new ways. Traditionally, BJP sympathisers, drawn from the considerable cadre base of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have voted against the Left, seeing the Congress as the lesser, god-fearing evil. However, with the > BJP now scaling up to a significant presence in Kerala , a section of Hindu votes may shift towards it and away from the Congress. At the same time, such calculations may be upset if the BJP, now in a seat-sharing arrangement with a party that purports to represent the State’s > large Ezhava population , traditional supporters of the Left, makes electoral inroads into this upwardly mobile backward class community. Kerala’s polarised politics hides a deeply fragmented polity held together by coalitions and power-sharing. Smaller parties have earned their place in one or the other front on account of their proven ability to tilt the scales for the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in specific constituencies. The UDF-LDF polarisation was thus achieved on the basis of accommodative politics, and not through marginalisation of the smaller players. Over the years, casteist and religious groups have found a place in both fronts, and some parties have moved from one front to the other with ease. But the BJP, with its right-wing politics and its anti-Congressism, is a different political force — it cannot, and maybe will not, allow itself to be assimilated in either of the two fronts. Kerala might thus be witnessing a slow political churning, one that could unsettle the two major fronts with long-term consequences. While parties seeking to represent the Muslim and Christian communities, the Indian Union Muslim League and the factions of the Kerala Congress, may not cohabit with the BJP, its future may lie in replicating the success it had in wooing the Ezhava-backed BJDS, and attracting the support of other caste-based outfits.

The LDF seems to have overcome, if only on the surface, the factional rivalry in the CPI(M) between former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and former State secretary of the party Pinarayi Vijayan. The UDF is mired in > corruption scandals and the anti-incumbency factor > hangs heavy on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy . The > bar bribery scandal , involving Kerala Congress (Mani) leader and former Finance Minister K.M. Mani has also exacerbated divisions within the UDF. This is an important election for the Congress, which is looking for an Assembly election victory it can call its own after the Lok Sabha debacle of 2014, and for the Left, which desperately needs to return to power in Kerala after losing its stranglehold on West Bengal. In a State where a small vote swing can determine the result, much will depend on how BJP supporters vote: they will determine whether this election will alter the revolving-door pattern that has seen one Front yielding to another every five years.

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