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A Politcal Profile of Kerala

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. This cycle was broken with the 2021 elections, in which a triumphant CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front retained power. 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. The historical context from 1982 until 2016 can be seen here

Kerala has 140 Legislative Assembly Constituencies and 20 Lok Sabha Constituencies and elects Nine Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament. The current MLAs/MPs can be seen here

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). You can learn more about the three fronts here.

 

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. The broad demographic data is available here.

You can learn more about the demographics and denominations of the Christian Community here.

 
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Broad Demographics - Some Basic Information

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

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The Fronts

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 boosted by the entry of the Kerala Congress (Mani), and the concurrent move of a greater share of Christian votes to the Front. The current convenor of the LDF is E.P. Jayarajan of the CPI (M).

 

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  (Shrard Chandra Pawar) (NCP(SCP))

6. Indian National League (INL)

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

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

9. Rashrriya Janata Dal (RJD)

10. Janathipathya Kerala Congress (JKC)

11. Revolutionary Socialist Party (Leninist)

12. Kerala Congress (Skariah Thomas) 

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. Keralad Democratic Party (KDP)

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

8. All India Forward Bloc (AIFB)

9. Bhartiya National Janata Dal (BNJD)

10. Revolutionary Marxist Party of India (RMPI)

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 second party in the front is the Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) which was launched as the political front of the SNDPY in 2016. All other allies of the NDA are quite minor. 

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)

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. The party is set to contest Ernakulam and Chalakkudy seats, and is likely to impact Congress votes. 

 

A similar grouping called "V 4 Kochi" had earlier contested in the Kochi Assembly constituency for 2021 Assembly elections. 

 
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History since 1982

Maps - Current MLA/MP mapping

Current MLAs/MPs
Additional Information

Additional Demographic Information

Understanding Christian Denominations

An important question that gets raised again and again in Kerala's demographic context is the various denominations of the Chrisitan Community. The following graph is a tool to understand the major Christian denominations in the state in a simple fashion. A short explanation is given below. 

Understanding Christian Denominations
Christian Denominations of Kerala
Demographic Data

The Image is reproduced here by Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED), created originally by Jstalins, as seen on Wikipedia.

 

[Clicking on the image will take you to the Original Source].

Kerala Catholic Bishop Conference (KCBC) unites the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin Catholic churches. Then, the Jacobites and Orthodox are at arms with each other because of the split. Mar-Thoma Syrian Chrisitans are the sixth largest group and the only one among the largest that follows protestant theology though they follow oriental rites. The Penctcostal Churches are the largest non- St. Thomas Christian Group, who are majorly present in Pathanamthitta District. Dalit Christians as listed in the tables below are present across various denominations. 

Demographic Data

Source: Religious Denominations of Kerala, 2018 

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