Mainstream, VOL LII No 28, July 5, 2014
Lok Sabha Polls 2014: Kerala Bucks Modi Wave
Saturday 5 July 2014
by M.R. Biju
The sixteenth Lok Sabha elections were held in nine phases from April 7 to May 12, 2014. According to the Election Commission of India, the electoral population of the country was 814.5 million, an increase of 100 million since the 2009 general elections. The 2014 elections were the longest and most expensive polls in the electoral history of the nation. The polls cost Rs 135 billion excluding the expenses of political parties. The parties spent around Rs 30,500 crores in these elections.
Since the general elections in 2009, the national politics witnessed a series of develop-ments. Notable among them include the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, formation of the Aam Aadmi Party by Aravind Kejriwal, election of Pranab Kumar Mukherjee as the President, passing of the Lok Pal, Lokayuktas and Food Security Bills, the communal riots at Muzaffarnagar in UP etc. This period also witnessed a number of scams and scandals. These included those related to coal, 2 G spectrum, Satyam, cash for votes, Adarsh, Commonwealth Games, Tatra Trunk, chopper etc.
Coming to the State of Kerala, it is one of the highly politicised States of India. The political sensibility of the State is the outcome of decades of political struggles, social reform movements and massive participation of the people in the electoral process. The first general elections in the State of Kerala were held in 1951 in which the Indian National Congress gave a spectacular performance. The Left dominated the State in the second, fourth and seventh Lok Sabha polls held in 1957, 1967 and 1980 respectively. The Congress party secured a majority either indivi-dually or through coalitions in 1962, 1971, 1977, 1984, 1989, 1991 and 2009. (In the 1996 polls both the Fronts shared equal number of seats.)
I. Pre-poll Scene
(a) Section of Candidates—Element of Caste Factor
Though caste-based seat-sharing in the Lok Sabha polls was not as intense when compared to the Assembly polls, it is an open secret that both the UDF and LDF always try to follow a specific pattern to satisfy the various caste and religious outfits of the State. While the Congress makes a caste-based division consi-dering the State as a single unit, the CPI-M plays its communal card specifically in each constituency. The winning equation of the UDF is considered as ‘5E-4N-4M-5C-2S’. It denotes five for Ezhavas, four for Nairs, four for Muslims, five for Christians and two for SCs/STs. However, in 2014 the Congress had to cut out a Ezhava candidate to accommodate the SJ(D)’s M.P. Veerendrakumar. In 2009, the UDF followed this equation and emerged victorious in 16 seats, but faced poorly when the Ezhava-Nair ratio of candidates was reversed in the 2004 polls. Moreover, whenever the UDF fails to make the Ezhava equation correct, it affects the Front’s chances. For instance, in the 2011 Assembly elections, despite the anti-incumbency factor against the CPI-M, the Congress fared poorly, especially in Ezhava-dominated districts like Kozhikode, Alappuzha, Kollam and Idukki.
The CPM, however, never followed such a specific equation, but it has always respected the Ezhava/Thiyya domination in Malabar. It also boasts of creating upset victories by tweaking the caste card effectively. This time too the party has played a new caste card in Vadakara and Kozhikode. The CPM fielded a Muslim candidate, A.N. Shamseer, in Vadakara, where it had fielded only an Ezhava candidate whenever it contested in its own symbol. For the first time, the CPM has tried an Ezhava candidate in the Kozhikode seat against M.K. Raghavan of the Congress. Though the consti-tuency has around 40 per cent Ezhava/ Thiyya population, Kozhikode is branded as a seat of forward communities since 1984.
The CPM employed a similar strategy to win the Alappuzha constituency way back in 1991. Though an Ezhava-dominant constituency, the CPM fielded T.J. Anjalose of the Latin community against sitting MP Vakkom Purushothaman, who was contesting for the third consecutive time. Anjalose defeated Vakkom by a margin of 14,075 votes, sabotaging the caste equations of Alappuzha.
In the 1987 elections, EMS took a bold step against the religious and communal outfits. In 2014, the CPM was disgraced to such a level, that the party’s State Secretary asked its ally, the Janata Dal (S), to field a Nair candidate in the Kottayam seat. But the JD(S) fielded Mathew T. Thomas. Similarly, the CPM was courting K.M. Mani only to woo the Church. Now, if the UDF is the ‘A’ team of the Church, the LDF has emerged as its ‘B’ team.
While the IUML always fielded Muslim candidates in Malappuram and Ponnani, the Congress never tried a non-Latin Catholic candidate in the Ernakulam seat since 1977. Though the CPM challenged with Hindu candidates V. Viswanatha Menon, who repre-sented the constituency in 1967, and P. Subramanian Potti that did not pay off.
Idukki is another constituency in which both the Fronts never fielded a non-Christian candidate. On the contrary, placing the correct caste equation need not ensure a win, especially when both candidates hail from the same community.
Attingal is an Ezhava-dominant seat, but since 1977, no Congressman had won whenever both candidates fielded Ezhava candidates. However, Congress leader Thalekkunnil Basheer had won twice. In 2009, the UDF’s Balachandran was defeated by the CPM’s A. Sampath.
Similarly, Nadar/Christian and Nair commu-nities decide the results in Thiruvanan-thapuram constituency. With a record margin of over one lakh votes, Neela Lohitadasan Nadar upset the CPI’s M.N. Govindan Nair in 1980. In a major surprise, noted poet O.N.V Kurup, who contested as the LDF-backed independent candidate, was defeated by A. Charles of the Congress in 1989 with a margin exceeding 50,000 votes. In the 2014 polls, the CPI fielded Dr. Bennet Abraham to woo the Nadar converted Christian community, which form a major vote- bank. Apart from serving as a member of the State PSC as a CPI nominee, he had hardly any link with the party.
Without going for much experiment, both Fronts tried a forward caste candidate in the Kollam constituency in a majority of the elections whereas Nair or Christian candidates are usually fielded by both Fronts in the Kottayam constituency.
As far as the Congress is concerned, they have been pampering the communities, including the NSS and the SNDP outfits, after the liberation struggle of 1959. Later, K. Karunakaran effectively played the caste card to gain the power and expand the UDF.
Caste composition 2014 in Kerala
(b) Electoral Sex Ratio
With 1178 women voters for every 1000 men voters, the Attingal Lok Sabha constituency has the highest sex ratio of electors in Kerala, according to the final figures published by the Chief Electoral Officer. Of the total electorate of 12,46,554 in Attingal, 6,74,264 voters are women and 5,72,290 men. The second highest sex ratio of 1140 women per 1000 men has been registered in the Kannur constituency, where there are 6,19,738 female voters and 5,43,299 males. The lowest ratio (1002 females to 1000 males) is in Idukki which has. 5,79,474 women to 5,77,94 men, followed by Malappuram (1003 females to 1000 males) where there -are 6,00,031 women, and 5.97,687 men voters. The female-male ratio for the State is 1.076 (1,25,70,439 women and 1,16,81,503 men). The female-male ratio of electors in the other constituencies is: Kasaragod: 1.093 (6,47,805 .women and. 5,92,658 men); Vadakara: 1.110 (6,20,367 women and 5,58,521 men); Wayanad 1.033 (6,34,015 women and 6,13,311 men); Kozhikode: 1.072 (6,09,626 women and 5,68,593 men); Ponnani: 1.057 (6,06,415 women and 5,73,616 men); Palakkad: 1.060 (6,20,471 women and 5,85,32.7 men); Alathur: 1.056 (6,23,519 women and 5,90,012 men); Thrissur: 1.103 (6,68,357 women and 6,05,724 men); Chalakudy: 1.036 (5,85,039 women and 5,64,335 men); Ernakulam: 1.044 (5,90,195 women .and 5,65,023 men); Kottayam: 1.026 (5,87,055 women and 5;71,962 men); Alappuzha: 1.085 (6,56,829 women and 6,04,910 men); Mavelikara: 1.122 (6,57,426 women and 5,85,812 men); Pathanamthitta: 1.101 (6,90,648 women and 6,27,203 men); Kollam: I.122 (6,42,425 women and 5,72,559 men) and Thiruvananthapuram: 1.075 (6,56,740 women and 6,10,716 men).
Pathanamthitta has the largest electorate of 13,17,851 including the largest number of women voters in any constituency (690,648) and 6,27,203 men. Thrissur with 12,74,081 (6,68,357 women and 6,05,724 men) constitutes the second largest electorate, followed by Thiruvananthapuram with 12,67,456 (6,56,740 women and 6,10,716 men). Chalakudy has the smallest electorate of 11,49,374.
Voter Sex Ratio
Barring minor incidents, voting for the 16th Lok Sabha elections was largely incident-free On April 10, 2014, one incident of damaging an electronic voting machine was reported from Kolanthayil at Sreekantapuram. Tension prevailed at Malappattam in Sreekantapuram following skirmishes between the Congress and CPI-M activists. A similar incident took place at Chepath at Pathanapuram in Kollam district. Four Congress workers were hacked at Kizha-kkancherry in Alathur. Four persons were reported to have collapsed and died in separate incidents in the State.
Technical snag in EVMs affected the pace of polling at a number of places. One such instance was in Kollam where the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate, N.K. Premachandran, had to wait for a while to exercise his franchise. Rain affected polling at a number of places. Heavy rain disrupted polling at different places. Power outages also affected the pace of voting at many regions in the evening. Heavy rain around 4 pm affected polling at Kothamangalam, Muvattupuzha, Thodu-puzha and Cheruthoni in the Idukki Lok Sabha segment and Pala in Kottayam, among other places.
A marginal increase of 1.67 per cent point in voter turnout over the 73.37 per cent polling in 2009 was registered in the State.
The highest voter turnout of 81.61 per cent in the State was recorded in the Vadakara parliamentary constituency, while Pathanam-thitta registered the lowest, 66.01 per cent. According to the Election Commission, the polling percentage in the constituencies is as follows (the 2009 turnout in brackets): Kasaragod: 78.49 per cent (76.15 per cent), Kannur: 81.32 (80.94), Vadakara: 81.61 (80.4), Wayanad: 73.28 (74.71), Kozhikode: 79.80 (75.65) Malappuraram 71.27 (76.67), Ponnani: 73.83 (77.12), Palakkad: 75.39 (73.51), Alathur: 76.45 (75.28), Thrissur: 72.15 (69.43), Chalakudy: 76.94 (73.63), Ernakulam: 73.56 (72.78), Idukki: 70.66 (73.89), Kottayam: 71.70 (73.69), Alappuzha 78.78 (79.37), Mavelikara: 71.35 (70.56), Pathanamthitta: 66.01 (65.86), Kollam: 72.12 (67.78), Attingal: 68.77 (66.25), and Thiruvananthapuram: 68.69 (65.74).
Polling percentage in Kerala
III. The Verdict:
Kerala Bucked The National Trend
Kerala has bucked the national trend of the Congress and CPI-M suffering humiliating routs in their strongholds, alliances led by them shared the spoils more or less equally even while experiencing shock losses. While the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) secured 12 seats, down four from 2009, the CPI-M led Left Democratic Front (LDF) was able to double its 2009 tally, securing eight seats.
Good news for the UDF came from Thiruvnan-thapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Mavelikara, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Kochi, Ponnani, Mala-ppuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, and Vadakara, The LDF’s victory were in Attingal, Idukki, Chalkudy, Thrissur, Alathur, Palakkad, Kannur and Kasaragod. In the UDF, Congress won eight seats. Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) two, Kerala Congress (Mani) and RSP one each. In the LDF, the CPI-M secured seven seats (two party-supported Independents) and CPI one. The LDF wrested Idukki, Chaiakudy, Thrissur, and Kannur from the UDF.
The BJP came closest to opening its account in Parliament from Kerala this time with its nominee O. Rajagopal maintaining a steady lead over his Congress rival, Shashi Tharoor, till the very last round, only to lose by 15,470 votes. The LDF had a humiliating outing here with its nominee, Bennet Abraham, getting relegated to a distant third position; this was the only constituency where the Opposition alliance suffered such an ignominy in the State.
The biggest shock for the Congress was in Chalakudy where its senior leader, P.C. Chacko, tasted defeat at the hands of actor and LDF-backed independent candidate, Innocent. For the CPl-M, the biggest loss was in Kollam where the party’s Polit-Bureau member, M.A. Baby, was trounced by the RSP’s N.K. Premachandran by a whopping margin of 37,649 votes. The RSP had quit the LDF on election-eve and moved into the UDF almost immediately.
People’s verdict in statitistical terms
While the UDF garnered 42.08 per cent votes, the LDF was close behind with 40.23 per cent votes, with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) claiming 10.84 per cent and others (including the smaller parties, indepen-dents and NOTA) cornering 6.85 per cent of the votes.
Votes in Numbers
In absolute numbers, the UDF’s tally was 75,46,827 votes, 3,35,570 votes more than the LDF’s share of 72,11,257 votes. The NDA secured 19,44,158 votes. The Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI) came next with 2,73,847 votes, followed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with 2,56,662. The BSP’s share was 71,262 votes. The Welfare Party of India, the political outfit of the Jama-at-e-Islami could secure only 68,332 votes, far below the share of NOTA, which stood at 2,10,561 votes. The difference of votes between the UDF and the LDF was 1.85 per cent.
The share of the unattached independents was 3,34,936 votes. On its own, the BJP was able to secure 10.30 per cent of the total 1,79,17,942 votes polled across the State. The percentage share of the SDPI and AAP were 1.50 per cent and 1.40 per cent respectively. The share of NOTA came to 1.71 per cent.
Vote-share of the Congress came down
At a time when the Congress received a blow nationally due to the BJP, the party in the State secured 55,68,130 votes of the total votes polled, and was able to get a major portion of the vote-share in the State. In 2009, when the Congress was able to win 13 seats, it got a vote-share of 40.13 per cent while the CPM was able to get 30.48 per cent of the votes when four of its candidates won the polls.
This time around when the Congress got nine seats on its own, it was able to get 31.1 per cent of the total votes. The CPM was able to get 21.6 per cent of the total vote-share or 38,78,110 votes. Details of the party-wise election results are given under:
Party Votes in percent Total votes
The poll figures show that though the LDF was not able to ensure victory of three of its five independent candidates, the ploy helped it to garner precious votes. Thus, while Joice George in Idukki brought in 3,82,019 votes, Innocent (Chalakudy) secured 3,58,440 votes, V. Abdurahiman (Ponnani) 3,53,093 votes, Peelipose Thomas (Pathanamthitta) 3,02,651 votes and Christy Fernandez (Ernakulam) 2,66,794 votes.
A detailed analysis of the polling trends in the various Assembly segments show that in 48 of them, the incumbent MLAs may have a tough time winning back their alienated voters. In these constituencies, a higher number of voters have opted for candidates put up by the rival combination. The worst hit were the LDF legislators as there are 27 of them who will face such a situation. In comparison, only 21 UDF legislators face a similar situation.
Women polled 10 per cent of votes
Women constituted 10 per cent of the candidates (27 out of 269 candidates) in the Lok Sabha polls in Kerala. Interestingly, their combined vote share was also near 10 per cent. P.K. Sreemathi of the CPM (Kannur) got the highest number of votes among women candidates—4.28 lakh constituting more than 45 per cent of votes polled in the constituency. Next came K. A. Sheeba of the Congress who could not make it to the Lok Sabha from Alathur. She polled 3.75 lakh votes (about 40 per cent of votes polled).
Bindu Krishna (INC, Attingal) and P.K. Sainabha (CPI-M, Malappuram) got only 37.6 per cent and 28.5 per cent votes respectively in their constituencies. Shobha Surendran of the BJP won about 15 per cent of the votes in Palakkad. S. Girijakumari, who had defected from the CPI-M to the BJP, won 10.5 per cent of votes as the BJP candidate in Attingal.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates came next with Anita Pratap winning about six per cent of the votes in Ernakulam and Sara Joseph getting 4.9 per cent of the votes in Thrissur. Silvi Sunil of the AAP had to be satisfied with just 1.4 per cent of the votes in Idukki. Ramlath Mampad (Welfare Party of India), Wayanad, and Seleena Prakkkanam (BSP), Pathanamthitta are the other two women who won more than one per cent votes. The lowest number of votes (292) was polled by R. Chandrika Kattakkada in Thiruvananthapuram.
Besides its ideological underpinning, the 2014 polls also marked a tectonic shift in the electoral side of Indian politics, which is incredible in more ways than one.
After a full quarter century, the electorate, who never trusted any party with majority seats since 1984, has given majority seats to the BJP now. Moreover, the BJP has decimated the Congress and effectively taken its place as the principal national party, not in terms of just seats but also in popular votes. In all elections till now, the BJP’s share of popular votes was less than that of the Congress. Now, its share is more. The BJP’s vote-share is estimated at more than 50 per cent in North and West India.
Because it has secured less than a tenth of the total seats, the Congress has lost its claim to be the recognised Opposition party. The misery of the Congress and the Gandhis seems unmitigated. The BJP has wiped out or handed the worst defeat to the Congress in most of India, particularly in North, East and West—including where the Congress is in power like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Maharashtra, Assam and Karnataka or where it was the strongest five years ago like Andhra Pradesh. In contrast, the BJP has wiped out the Congress where the BJP is in power, be it Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, or Chhattisgarh.
A desperate Congress created Telangana and got decimated in AP. Yet, it could not get the Telangana Rashtra Samiti to ally with it and lost Telangana to the TRS. But the BJP, despite voting to create Telangana, allied with the Telugu Desam Party that is opposed to Telangana and won in AP, both in Assembly and Lok Sabha. The responsibility for this dire state of the Congress squarely falls on the Gandhi family which directly controlled the party and remote-controlled the UPA Government.
Finally, the 2014 elections have thrown up a national leader of unprecedented popularity with mass backing, ideological conviction and political courage unseen since Indira Gandhi, but with a vital, very vital, difference. Inheriting Gandhiji’s name and Nehru’s lineage, Indira became the Prime Minister and then acquired popularity through power. Modi became popular by hard work overcoming social and economic backwardness, supported by the RSS and the BJP he is part of.
Compared to the national level political scenario, the electoral politics of Kerala since 2006 undoubtedly shows that the CPI-M-led LDF has not won a single major election in the State. The LDF’s victory even in 2006 was built almost entirely on the faults of the then Congress-led coalition rather than on its own merits. Thereafter, in the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, local body polls in 2010 and the Assembly polls in 2011 and two significant by elections at Piravam and Neyyattinkara that followed, the electoral fortune was in favour of the UDF. Some of the key reasons responsible for the debacle of the Left include:
1) the factional feud within the CPI-M and individualistic adventures of some of its top leaders; 2) arrogant and autocratic style of functioning of party leaders from top to bottom; 3) irrational and unethical electoral pact of the Left with some communal forces with alleged extremist links; 4) estrangement of the coalition partners for a variety of decisions taken by the CPI-M leadership; 5) alienation of some communities on issues of the government policy on self-financing education; 6) CPI-M’s indulgence in political violence and murder and futile attempts of the party to defend and protect party comrades who had direct involvement with the offences; 7) losing public interest in the agitations organised or sponsored by the CPI-M; 8) absence of a dynamic social movement for worthy causes that were once the hallmark of the Left etc.
Despite these electoral setbacks, the Left parties could retain their vote-share. For example in the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, though the Left secured only four seats out of 20, they could capture 41.89 per cent of the votes as compared to 47.73 per cent won by the UDF. In the 2001 Assembly polls the Left won 44.94 per cent of votes, when the UDF which replaced it in government got 45.83 per cent of votes. Within the LDF, the CPI-M’s vote-share in the elections in 2009 and 2011 was 30.48 per cent and 28.18 per cent respectively and that of the CPI was only 7.44 per cent and 8.72 per cent respectively. But in the 2014 polls the vote-share of the CPM came down to 21.6 per cent and the share of the CPI to 7.6 per cent
Before concluding, it has to be stated that the rout of the CPM in West Bengal and the less impressive performance in Kerala mark the beginning of the end for the CPM as a key player in national politics. Though a debacle in West Bengal was not unexpected, the CPM leadership cannot give any explanation for its humiliating defeat in Bengal, a State considered as a Left fiefdom till recently. In Kerala, the defeats of M.A. Baby, the PB member, A. Vijayaraghavan, the Central Committee member, have put the fellow travellers of the CPM into a quandary. The only solace for the CPM in Kerala was its victory of Kannur, Aalathur, Palghat and Attingal. However, P. Karunakaran, another Central Committee member, escaped with a thin margin of 6921 votes in Kasargod. At this juncture the party has to make a serious introspection and take remedial measures if it wants to survive as an entity of any political relevance.
Notes and REFERENCES
1. The Hindu, Thiruvananthapuram
2. The New Indian Express, Thiruvanan-thapuram
3. Deccan Chronicle, Kochi
4. The Malayala Manorama, Kollam
5. The Mathrubhumi, Kollam
6. The Kerala Kaumudi, Kollam
7. The Kerala Sabdam, Kollam
10. Samakalika Malayalam
11. Kala Kaumudi
Dr M.R. Biju is an Associate Professor, PG and Research, Department of Political Science, Sree Narayana College, Kollam (Kerala). He was the recipient of the UGC Post-doctoral Research Award in 2004-07. At present he is the editor of the South Asian Journal of Socio-Political Studies (SAJOSPS). He can be contacted at e-mail: email@example.com, while his website is: www.sajospsindia.com