The slogan of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala in this election is urappaanu LDF (LDF of course). From now on, the DFL seems indeed poised to retain power, thanks to its relatively positive governance record. If that happens, it will mark a new political turning point in a state that has traditionally alternated between the Marxist-led LDF and the congressionally-led United Democratic Front (UDF) for the past 40 years. A change in this method of voting will have an impact on social and community life in Kerala.
Traditionally, the left has been supported by Nairs, Ezhavas, Dalits and some economically backward communities and groups, transcending religious boundaries. The UDF relied on a coalition of economically powerful Syrian Christians, Muslims and a section of the Nairs. Under the veneer of a progressive political ethic hide religious sentiments, which often determine the methods of voting.
In the past, the church has had a difficult relationship with what it saw as an ungodly left. However, a few decades ago, animosity from the left towards the Christian community shifted to Muslims in northern Kerala who had become a powerful constituent of the UDF.
It is in this political landscape that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged as an important force over the past decade. Slowly, a significant part of the Nair and a large part of the Ezhavas aligned with the BJP, making a huge dent in the political base of both fronts, especially the left.
But a significant development is the unexpected support the left receives from Syrian Christians. The genesis of this lies in the clash between two sections of the Syrian church – the Orthodox and the Jacobites – over possession of the properties of the church. A recent Supreme Court (SC) verdict went in favor of the Orthodox. Congress decided to wait and watch while the left mediated on behalf of the Jacobite Church. This has earned him some goodwill in the community.
Likewise, the leaders of the Syrian Catholic Church, who had traditionally supported the UDF, decided to align themselves with the left.
As the Assembly elections approached, the left succeeded in removing the Kerala Congress, dominated by Syrian Christians, from the UDF. The reason given by the Kerala Congress for this change was the so-called “love jihadBy Muslim men against Christian women. The decision was clearly based on anti-Muslim sentiment, which helped the LDF broaden its political base among Christians while becoming more politically attractive to mainstream Hindu voters.
Congress has also attempted to expand its Hindu base. When the SC’s decision to allow women to enter the Sabarimala temple sparked a backlash among conservative sections of Hindus, the party opposed the court verdict in hopes it could lose its reputation. party of minorities.
However, here he has clashed with the BJP, which conservative Hindus are turning to. In the process, Congress runs the risk of not gaining ground among conservative Hindus, nor of gaining the support of liberal Hindus.
This election is crucial above all for the Congress because a loss would mean a shift of its Hindu vote towards the BJP, and not its traditional rival, the left. The BJP would then emerge as a major opposition party. If Congress is defeated, the left buffer zone of the center it represents will be eroded.
The people would then have two clear choices: the left, which addresses the Christian and Muslim minorities, and the BJP, which represents harsh Hindu politics. As the left moves to welcome minorities, it will have to cede much of its Hindu electoral base to the BJP.
With minority votes concentrated in a few districts, the possible consolidation the left is hoping for may not be enough to tip the political balance in its favor. The long-term decline of Congress will mean that both the LDF and the UDF will be diminished, leaving space wide open for the growth of the BJP.
Burton Cleetus teaches modern history at the Center for Historical Studies, JNU
Opinions expressed are personal