The LDF and UDF, the active players in Kerala politics have always taken advantage of the existing caste and communal differences in the state. By winning Pala municipality which has for years remained a traditional Christian and Congress stronghold, LDF has upped its ante in state politics.
Bharatiya Janata Party was considered until a few years ago as a party confined to the Hindi heartland. But in the past six years, BJP has made significant strikes in the Northeast states, West Bengal, and the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The local body elections in Kerala which came at a time when the ruling Left government was mired in a series of corruption scandals and controversies regarding its mismanagement of the pandemic was keenly watched for a variety of reasons. It was widely expected that the result will be a mandate against the autocratic policies of the ruling dispensation. But it did come as a surprise to many when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) recorded a majority by winning four of the six corporations, 11 of 14 district councils, 112 of 152 block panchayats, and 514 of 941 villages (gram) panchayats. But what is to be observed is that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 1800 wards and improved its earlier tally of 1,236 seats. And as for the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) which was in an alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Welfare Party of India, it may well be time to write its political epitaph, despite having the crown prince of Congress Rahul Gandhi, KC Venugopal, and Shashi Tharoor as their Member of Parliaments in Kerala. If the election results are an indication of what the future holds for Kerala politics, then it may not be wrong to argue that for the assembly and general elections, the fight may in effect be between the LDF and BJP. The improved tally in the local body elections and the party retaining the main opposition in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram are significant milestones while analyzing the trends. BJP’s victory in the Pandalam municipality is noteworthy as that was the epicentre of the Sabarimala protests. By standing with the people of Kerala during a crucial stage of protecting the traditional values, BJP has shown that its primary interests lie in safeguarding the public interests and it will extend its full support for rightful causes. However, as the election results have shown, for BJP to become a powerful force in Kerala, the party leadership will surely realign their strategies and reach the grassroots level karyakarta to reach the masses before the assembly elections that are due in May 2021. The win of new seats makes it clear that Kerala is ready to look at an alternative and this may be giving sleepless nights to the LDF as BJP is looking to be formidable opposition. Kerala is gripping with issues such as like violence against Hindus, Islamic terrorism, and ISIS recruitments. There are serious concerns like Love Jihad that has been also highlighted by Churches across the states. Mired with growing unemployment and lack of opportunities inside the state, the people relocating out of Kerala to Middle east Islamic countries is also growing. This has led to the influx of migrant labourers from several states in North India such as Bihar, UP, and Bengal. The LDF and UDF, the active players in Kerala politics have always taken advantage of the existing caste and communal differences in the state. By winning Pala municipality which has for years remained a traditional Christian and Congress stronghold, LDF has upped its ante in state politics. More than what happened on the ground, it was the political acumen of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan who took advantage of dissentions within the Congress party and brought his ace political rival Jose K Mani in the left fold. With this masterstroke, LDF was able to garner Christian votes that traditionally went to Congress. It is this hawkish nature of Kerala politics that BJP needs to be wary of. BJP has undoubtedly made significant gains in this election by fielding 600 Muslim and Christian candidates and ensuring that it stands above the politics of hatred and believes in inclusivity. But religion is not the only issue affecting the politics of Kerala, it is also caste barriers. The divisions have swept into political parties and have struck at their foundation. The success of BJP will lie in ensuring that caste politics do not threaten its internal functioning and the party is able to take along all the warring factions and consolidate their votes at the state level. The current ruling government of Kerala, which is embroiled in cases of corruption, gold smuggling, and even terror financing is undoubtedly a threat to India’s security. What makes the matters worse is that the chief minister was able to make people believe that he was unaware of what was going on in his own office! In the end, his Principal Secretary M. Sivashankar was forced to take the burnt of all that happened without a single question being raised on the chief minister’s accountability. Spreading of false narrative has become the cornerstone of the Left’s politics in Kerala. With the support of the leftist media journalist, CM has been able to create a strong positive narrative about himself. The matters of national security and corruption in the state of Kerala do not become headlines in many channels and print media articles. The BJP will have to work hard in a united manner to counter the strong web of lies that chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been spreading. One of the major reasons for the resounding victory of the Left lie in the fact that they have renamed and marketed many of the Central schemes as policy measures, they initiated. An example of it is how the state government has renamed Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and marketed it as Life Mission to provide homes for the needy. The ruling front even used this as a medium to carry out their corrupt practices which are now being enquired by the Enforcement Directorate. Another example is how the funds of Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation are being misused to carry out unnecessary and superfluous beautification works in the state which are not of any use to the general public. Communication has always been a strong point for the BJP in all elections and so has been social media and this time it must be in the local languages like Malayalam, Kanada, and Tamil. Communication in Hindi or English will not be highly effective in Kerala and the top leadership of BJP understands this. The need of the hour is to encourage local leaders to start awareness campaigns on how the Left government led by Vijayan is appropriating the various schemes of the centre for their vested gains and how he is indulging and sponsoring violence against RSS workers in the State. The CM has been a blue-eyed boy of several media channels and journalist who have only written praise for him despite his failures be it the Mishandling of Kerala flood situation, lack of economic opportunities in Kerala, the massive brain drain from Kerala to the Middle East, disrespecting of people’s views in Sabrimala incidence, Gold Scam, Violence, Conversions, ISIS activities in the state, the corruption charges and most recently the mishandling of Covid19 situation. The people of Kerala have shown faith in Narendra Modi Ji and JP Nadda Ji and BJP has got a strong foothold in Kerala with the local body election results. The rightward tilt in Kerala is evident and now it is up to the state and central leadership to work in tandem to conquer new frontiers. Strong leadership and an unwavering focus on the end goal are sure to bring results in the upcoming assembly polls for the BJP and give sleepless nights to CM Pinarayi Vijayan for the next few months.