Even as Kerala voted against the United Democratic Front (UDF) in favour of the Left, the surge of the BJP and its allies points towards a slow Hindu consolidation under the Hindutva umbrella – a tectonic shift in a state known for its secular credentials.
Kozhikode: Sticking to convention, Kerala voted out the Congress-led UDF government, with the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) making a comeback with a thumping majority. The LDF, as predicted by most of the pre-poll and exit poll surveys, won 91 out of the 139 seats declared in the 140-strong assembly. The UDF won 47 seats. One seat each was won by NDA and an independent.
But the man of the moment is nobody from the winning team, but the BJP veteran O. Rajagopal who has created history by becoming the first elected member of his party to the legislative assembly. He won the Nemom constituency of the capital city Thiruvananthapuram by defeating V. Sivankutty of the CPI(M) who was also the sitting MLA. The UDF candidate in Nemom could secure only 13,860 votes out of a total of over 1.5 lakh votes. The NDA was able to triple its vote share across the state. Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), the political party floated by the Ezhava community leader Vellappally Nateshan just before civic polls was the prominent partner of the BJP in the front. The NDA had roped in tribal leader C. K. Janu and Kerala Congress leader P. C. Thomas. In the 2011 assembly polls, the BJP contested 139 of the 140 seats and finished runners up in only three constituencies. All three candidates got more than 40,000 votes. In the rest the BJP finished a poor third.
The result of Wadakkanchery constituency where the Congress candidate is leading by a slender margin of three votes has been withheld after an electronic voting machine was found at fault.
As always the northern and southern parts of Kerala stood with the LDF. The front swept the districts of Kannur, Kozhikode, Palakkad and Thrissur from the north, and Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitha in the south. The central Kerala, traditionally a UDF strong hold, also slightly favoured the Left this time. The LDF improved their tally in Ernakulam district where as Kottayam, a Christian-majority district, stood with the UDF.
Malappuram, the IUML citadel, also wavered a bit causing panic among the Muslim league leaders. They lost three of their sitting seats and managed to retain the rest of the seats by a thin majority.
The NDA factor
Apart from the seat they won, the NDA has come second in seven other constituencies. They have secured 60,000 plus votes in Nemom and 50,000 plus votes in two other constituencies. There are 86 constituencies where the NDA has 25,000 or more votes. This could well be a tectonic shift in Kerala politics. In majority of seats where the NDA fared well, Congress suffered very badly. In Thrissur district, where the UDF got a battering, the NDA went on to secure an average of 25,000 votes.
It was widely believed and reported in a section of the media that the BDJS was going to affect the LDF than the UDF given that a huge majority of the Ezhavas voted for the LDF traditionally. But to the embarrassment of the UDF the erosion was mostly from their kitty.
The BDJS effect took a toll on the LDF also but in comparatively fewer constituencies. They lost Kovalam, Changanassery and suffered serious erosion of votes in Udumbanchola, Thodupuzha and Idukky constituencies. Altogether the NDA has made an impact across the state for the first time in the history of Kerala, BJP lost their stronghold Manjeswaram for a wafer thin margin of 89 votes where their youth leader K. Surendran lost the battle to P B Abdul Razak of IUML.
C. K. Janu , the tribal leader of Adivasi Gotra Mahasabha who contested the Sulthanbathery seat as NDA candidate got 27,000 votes, but could not make it count this time .
The BJP vote share was 6.03% in the 2011 assembly polls which they bettered in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls touching 10.83%. This time it may even go up to 16-18%.
From the preliminary calculations of votes, it is pretty evident that the LDF received considerable support from religious minorities, especially the Muslim community. This shift in voting is visible across the state and the LDF candidates in the minority areas (other than the Muslim league strong holds) got this advantage. Even in the league dominated areas, LDF candidates got a sizeable amount of support and the league’s vote bank suffered considerable erosion. For example, the Kazhakkoottam constituency of Trivandrum district which has a sizeable Muslim population voted out its three time MLA, M. A. Wahid and elected CPI (M) leader Kadakampalli Surendran. Interestingly BJP’S former state president V. Muralidharan finished second here. In Malappuram district, the CPI (M) candidates put up a tough fight in Mankada and Perinthalmanna constituencies where they almost pulled up improbable victories.
This minority consolidation in favour of the LDF is a worrisome factor for the UDF which usually enjoys their support in Kerala. With the caste Hindu votes swiftly drifting away to the NDA, this could well seal the fate of the Congress and the UDF, unless they fail to do some damage control exercise.
The LDF will also have a do a lot of home work if it has to prevent the Hindutva bandwagon which is all set for a rollercoaster ride across the state, once known for its secular credentials.
Rajeev Ramachandran is the coordinating editor at Media One TV.