Kerala goes to polls in April-May this year along with three other states Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam. Politicalbaaba (PB) will cover these elections in detail with analysis, deep insights and reports from on the ground.

For the past three decades since 1982, the state has been ruled by Congress and Left alternatively for full five year terms. Even prior to that since the formation of the state in 1957 Left and Congress / Congress backed governments alternatively ruled the state. However during 1970-1977, CPI an important constituent of Left Front today was an ally of the Indira led Congress.

Demographics of the State

  • The state has 140 assembly constituencies, 124 in general category and 16 reserved for SC /ST category.
  • 52% of the population lives in rural areas which is much lower than national average of 69%.
  • Hindus account for 55% of state population (Ezhavas 20%, Nairs 13%, SC/ST 11% are the prominent sub-caste groups). The Left Front has got the majority of the Hindu votes (60%+ Ezhavas and Nairs 40%+) in 2006 and 2011.
  • Kerala accounts for the 3rd largest Muslim population in the state (in terms of proportion). The community accounts for 27% of population.
    • Muslims have been traditional vote-bank of Congress (c. 60%+ voting for the party) in last two state elections.
    • Except Malappuram district, where the Muslims are a majority, Hindus constitute the majority in all other districts.
    • The population of Hindus is the largest in Thiruvananthapuram district and the lowest in Wayanad district.
    • In the case of Muslims, the largest is in Malappuram district and the lowest in Pathanamthitta.
    • The Christian population is highest in Ernakulam district and the lowest in Malappuram.
  • Christians (18%) and Muslims (27%) account for the balance and have been traditional vote-bank of Congress (c. 60%+ voting for it) in last two state elections.
  • State has the highest literacy (94% vs national average of 74%) and people below poverty line are only 7% (3rd lowest in India) vs national average of 22%.

2011 State Elections – When the trend was almost broken

In 2011 elections, in line with the trend of past three decades, Congress led UDF defeated CPM led LDF. UDF won 72 seats (+30) while LDF won 68 seats (-30). In terms of vote share UDF got 45.8% vs 44.9% of LDF (narrow gap of 0.9%). BJP couldn’t win any seat despite gaining 1.3% vote share. The politics continued to be bipolar.

However, there were very interesting events in these elections:

  • The trend of three decades of alternate rule was almost broken.
  • LDF almost managed to pull it off at last minute despite anti-incumbency and the result 72-68 was very close vs clear mandates of 98-42 in 2006 and 94-46 in 2001.
  • It wasn’t a comfortable victory for Congress led UDF as in the past despite their good performance in 2009 LS polls (16/20) and municipal polls in 2010. For the first time LDF lost majority of Gram Panchayats.
  • Achutanandan (CPM) was by far the most preferred CM (38%) vs 25% for Oommen Chandy, despite this LDF lost which is not the same as we have seen in recent elections in Bihar and Delhi.
  • Majority of the people who voted expressed satisfaction about government performance on seven parameters. Hence it was surprising that Left lost.
  • In terms of voting among castes,. LDF lost 7% Muslim votes, while UDF gained 8% and this was the key differentiation between the two alliances.
  • 56% of the people opined “Change is beneficial for development” on asked about change of government every five years. (Source: CSDS)
  • People in the end favoured trend ahead of performance of govt. and ahead of popularity ratings of leader.

Seat Position of Parties in last 5 Elections

Parties

1991

1996

2001

2006

2011

United Democratic Front
INC

55

37

62

24

38

MUL

19

13

16

7

20

KCM

10

6

9

7

9

Left Democratic Front
CPM

29

40

23

61

45

CPI

12

18

7

17

13

BJP

0

0

0

0

0

IND

4

5

3

5

2

OTHERS

11

21

20

19

13

Total

140

140

140

140

140

 Vote Share of Parties in last 5 Elections

Parties

1991

1996

2001

2006

2011

United Democratic Front
INC

32,1%

30,4%

31,4%

24,1%

26,4%

MUL

7,4%

7,2%

7,6%

7,3%

7,9%

KCM

4,3%

3,1%

3,5%

3,3%

4,9%

Left Democratic Front
CPM

22,1%

21,6%

21,4%

30,4%

28,2%

CPI

8,3%

7,6%

7,3%

8,1%

8,7%

BJP

4,8%

5,5%

5,0%

4,7%

6,0%

IND

6,1%

7,7%

7,9%

6,0%

5,7%

OTHERS

14,9%

16,9%

15,9%

16,1%

12,2%

Total

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

100,0%

2014 Lok Sabha Polls – Congress manages to hold forte amid Modi wave!

In Lok Sabha, Kerala was one of the few states like Punjab where Congress was able to challenge the rise of BJP and Modi wave was missing. UPA won 12 / 20 seats while Left Front won 6 /20 seats. BJP failed to open its account while doubling its vote share.

2/3rd of Christian community and 60% of Muslims voted for Congress while the Ezhavas and Nair votes split three way between Congress, Left and BJP. This hurt the Left.

Caste wise voting in LS Polls

kerala_new_ai_eps_1910971e

Seat and Vote Share Position in LS Polls

Parties

Seats Won

Vote Share

Assembly Leads

INC

8

31,5%

57

IUML

2

4,6%

11

CPM

5

21,8%

36

RSP

1

2,3%

4

BJP

0

10,5%

4

IND

2

11,5%

11

OTHERS

2

17,8%

17

TOTAL

20

100,0%

140

Will the trend continue and Left come back to power?

For the past three decades, the state has been ruled by Congress and Left alternatively for full five year terms. Going by the trend it’s the turn of Left to form the government. As the state is 100% literate, it is very difficult for governments to hide their scams. The solar scam and alleged involvement of the current CM is seen as the last nail in the coffin for the Congress govt.

The Left and the Congress are discussing a possible alliance in West Bengal to take on Mamata. If this materializes this will have an impact on the state polls in Kerala. It would give confusing signal to a section of voters. But the real question is whether there is any alternative to Left in the state and can BJP take advantage of this.

BJP which currently has no MLAs is not expected to benefit so immensely from the alliance in West Bengal and its negative impact in Kerala that it ends up forming govt. in the state.

One of the most important factors which impacted Left performance in 2011 and 2014 was infighting in the state unit of CPM between Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan faction. This time as well there is news of re-surfacing of the same. While Achutanandan is popular but is very old at 92. Vijayan sees this as his last chance to become CM of the state after he lost race to Yechury for national CPM General Secretary post.

Going by the trend, corruption scams against Congress govt. and people’s penchant for “change” Left looks favorite to win on paper.

Can BJP play spoilsport?

Traditionally while Congress has got majority of the minority community votes, Left Front has got majority of the Ezhavas, Nair and SC/ST votes (Hindu). Entry of BJP has made the game interesting.

BJP has strengthened its position over the years among the Nair community (13%) and a section of the community now sees it as an alternative to the 30 years of Congress / Left alternate rule. While it has been able to make inroads into the Nair community (it was their second choice after UDF in LS polls, among the larger Ezhavas community (20%) it is still to make a significant impact). It looks certain to open its account this time. BJP may bag a few seats especially in Thiruvananthapuram.

BJP vote share among two top Hindu Groups in Kerala

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Some initial surveys predict vote share for BJP in the range of 20%-25%. This in turn also depends upon the Congress decision to ally with Left Front in West Bengal. If it goes ahead with the alliance, then Congress can witness massive vote share drop which would benefit BJP. 2016 in a lot of ways is laying the foundation for a good performance in 2019 LS and 2021 VS polls.

To sum up, the outcome of the state polls depends upon the following:

  • Will the trend continue?
  • Will Left’s proposed alliance with Congress in West Bengal have an impact in the state?
  • Will infighting prove to be deadly again for the Left?
  • Will Congress break the trend finally (which was almost broken in 2011) and go on to win the state polls for a second consecutive term?
  • Will BJP perform really well leading to a hung assembly situation?
  • Will public’s penchant for change enable Left to make a comeback?

All this and much more to follow…

 

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