A Political Profile of Kerala

Kerala's politics is unique in many ways as it is still the only state in India which has a ruling Communist Government in India and has had a two-fronts that have alternated power in between them like clockwork. However this system is likely experiencing is greatest turbulence so far with the 2021 Assembly Elections. The rise of the BJP which used to be  a marginal player in the state's political scene has now become a viable third front which is securing a significant share of the votes since 2014. 

Kerala has 140 Legislative Assembly Constituencies and 20 Lok Sabha Constituencies and elects Nine Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament. The maps for the same are given below.

Kerala can be broadly divided into three regions: Malabar, Cochin and Travancore. 

Rather than detailing every single historical event in Kerala Politics, it would be prudent to list of the major fronts, its leadership and social bases (broadly). Before that, it would be prudent to understand the demographics of Kerala as well as it social make-up. 

 

Demographics at a glance

There are three major religious groups: Hindus (54.7%), Muslims (26.6%), Christians (18.4%). Muslims are broadly dominant in Malabar (especially in South Malabar), while Christians are dominant in the Southern Region, specifically in the Central Travancore Region. 

The Religious communities have various sub-divisions among them with sometimes varying political preferences based on regional differences.

 
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Demographics

 
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Source: TNIE, Census 2011 and the Kerala Migration Survey, 2018

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The Fronts

 

The Left Democratic Front

Currently led by Chief Minister Pinrayi Vijayan, it was formed under the leadership of E.K. Nayanar in the late 70's. The main anchor of the party is the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the second party in the front has been the Communist Party of India (CPI), which was CPM's parent organization. The front's social base is primarily the Ezhava/Thiyya caste, an OBC group, combined with the Nairs of Malabar, Lower class Muslims and certain Christian Denominations, including the minor Jacobite Church. This base is boosted by the CPM's powerful Trade Union, Government Employees, and other 'front' organizations that provide significant political and social influence. The base of the party has been recently boosted by the entry of the Kerala Congress (Mani), and the concurrent move of a greater share of Christian votes to the Front. 

 

The parties in the front as of now are as follows:

1. Communist Party of India (Marxist)

2. Communist Party of India (CPI)

3. Kerala Congress (Mani) (KEC(M))

4. Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S))

5. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)

6. Indian National League (INL)

7. Congress (Secular) (C(S))

8. Kerala Congress (B) (KEC(B))

9. Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD)

10. Janathipathya Kerala Congress (JKC)

11. Revolutionary Socialist Party (Leninist)  

The United Democratic Front 

The spiritual successor of the United Front Government that combined the INC-CPI and IUML in the 70s, the UDF was created in the leadership of K. Karunakaran. The main anchor of the front is the Indian National Congress, while the second major party is the Indian Union Muslim League. For a long time, the Kerala Congress (Mani) used to be the third pole in the UDF, but after the death of K.M. Mani, the Kerala Congress supremo, the party split yet again (the splitting, rejoining and splinter groups of the Kerala Congress is a constant theme in Kerala Politics), thus resulting in the P.J. Joseph Kerala Congress becoming the third major party in the front. The base is of the UDF is primarily an anti-communist coalition of conservative social groupings. The Nair Service Society and the Sree Naryana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, the community organizations of the Nairs and Ezhavas had formal political parties in yesteryears that were part of the front. The party counts on a substantial chunk of votes from the Christian community, and the IUML channels a greater share of Muslim votes. While the front organisations of the Congress have limited influence, they still have a working class-base in some regions as well. The migration of a section of the Christian vote is however worrying prospect for the Congress, considering that a substantial section of the Nair vote has been lost to the BJP. The League however remains as strong as ever. 

The parties in the front as of now:

1. Indian National Congress (INC)

2. Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)

3. Kerala Congress (KEC)

4. Kerala Congress (Jacob) (KEC(J))

5. Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP)

6. Nationalist Congress Kerala (NCK)

7. Communist Marxist Party (John) (CMP(J))

8. All India Forward Bloc (AIFB)

9. Bhartiya National Janata Dal (BNJD)

(The front is also supporting the Revolutionary Marxist Party of India (RMPI) candidate K.K. Rema in Vadakara.)

The National Democratic Alliance 

The NDA in Kerala was in a wishy-washy situation other than in 2004 when P.C. Thomas won from Muvattupuzha constituency as part of the Indian Federal Democratic Party (IFDP) whose election was later struck down. The NDA has been bolstered since 2014 with a more comprehensive Front being created. The social base of the alliance is primarily a combination of Nair votes combined with a section of Ezhava and Dalit votes. The increasing migration of Nair votes from the INC to the BJP has hurt the INC substantially. The BJP has been trying unsuccessfully to create a greater reach among the Christians in the State, however this could be changing with recent events. Another aspect of the social base that the BJP is attempting to create is the attempted co-option of caste organizations of minor castes. The Alliance recently witnessed the exit of the Kerala Congress, which was led by P.C. Thomas who merged with the Joseph faction of the Kerala Congress  to join the UDF. This is however unlikely to affect their chances as the exit was one of convenience by P.C. Thomas. The second party in the front is the Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) which was launched as the political front of the SNDPY in 2016. 

The parties in the front as of now:

1. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

2. Bharatiya Dharma Jane Sena (BDJS)

3. Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha (JRS)

4. Kerala Kamaraj Congress (KKC)

5.  Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)

(The Alliance is extending support to the Democratic Social Justice Party (DSJP) candidate Dileep Nair in Guruvayoor)

Others 

There are minor parties in Kerala that sometimes function within the fronts or sometimes independent of it. This includes vote bank focused politics, especially in the Muslim community such as the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Welfare Party of India (WPI) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).  The Bahujan Samaj Party, Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) and other parties have a minor and negligible presence.  

However, there are other political formulations arriving in the State, with the rise of the Twenty20 (T20) Political grouping. The T20 is a corporate sponsored political party that is tapping into apolitical sentiments. A similar grouping called "V 4 Kochi" is contesting in the Kochi Assembly constituency for 2021 Assembly elections.  T20 is contesting around five seats in Ernakulam District, which is likely to give all the fronts a headache. 

There is also the political phenomenon of P.C. George, the lone star of Poonjar who is something onto himself. He was part of the Kerala Congress groupings over years but is now taking on all three major fronts in his constituency of Poonjar and is likely to win.

 
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Additional Demographic Information

 
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