Crowd gathered to interact with BJP president Amit Shah addressing a public election meeting during upcoming Lok Sabha election polls at Thrissur in Kerala on Tuesday. (ANI)
Crowd gathered to interact with BJP president Amit Shah addressing a public election meeting during upcoming Lok Sabha election polls at Thrissur in Kerala on Tuesday. (ANI)

UDF, LDF leave little on the table for BJP in Kerala

  • Kerala’s reins have traditionally got swapped every five years between the two main political alliances
  • Rahul Gandhi faces a tough battle in Amethi against BJP’s Smriti Irani and Wayanad provides the party chief a safety net

All 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala will go to the polls on 23 April, in third of the seven-phase elections. Kerala is one of the only three states in India where communism has prospered. Mint analyses a state where, curiously, the RSS has a presence—but the BJP doesn’t.

1

Which are the main parties in the state?

Kerala’s reins have traditionally got swapped every five years between the two main political alliances—the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front. The UDF comprises the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the Kerala Congress (M), and other smaller parties. LDF’s constituents are CPI, Janata Dal (Secular), Nationalist Congress Party, and others. LDF currently rules the state where the BJP has never won a Lok Sabha seat. The saffron party has now aligned with Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) to fight the Lok Sabha polls.

2

Why has Rahul Gandhi chosen to fight from Wayanad too?

Gandhi faces a tough battle in Amethi against BJP’s Smriti Irani, and Wayanad, being another traditional Congress constituency, provides the party chief a safety net. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Congress’ M.I. Shanavas won by a record margin of 153,439 votes from the seat, earning it the reputation of a safe seat for the party. That margin shrank to 20,870 in the 2014 polls, but the tag stuck. Some say Gandhi fighting from Wayanad will consolidate votes for the party in the south. Gandhi’s opponents are the CPI’s P.P. Suneer and BDJS president Thushar Vellappally.

3

What are BJP’s chances?

BJP hopes veteran Kummanam Rajasekharan defeats Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram. The party faces a tough battle in a state where 55% are Hindus, 26% Muslims and 18% Christians.

4

What is the Sabarimala issue all about?

The Sabarimala temple, in Pathanamthitta district, is visited by lakhs of devotees every year. The shrine’s deity, Lord Ayyappa, is widely regarded as being celibate—this is the reason cited for not allowing women of menstrual age into the temple. It is not clear when this ban came into force, but it was stayed by the Supreme Court last year. The BJP is looking to make the most of this controversy, banking on the support of the Nair community which opposes the entry of menstruating women.

5

What is the nature of Kerala’s politics?

Kerala, India’s most literate state, is also one with rigid religious and caste affinities. Among Hindus, the upper-caste Nairs and backward Ezhavas are dominant. Politics was generally split between the anti-feudalism of the Left and the nationalism of the Congress. The two often fought for the vote of minorities. The BJP grabbed this as an opportunity, using issues like the Sabarimala temple to stir passions. Politics in the state is dangerous, with both the CPM and the RSS resorting to political murders of their opponents.

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