A 5 Point Guide To Politics In Kerala


Kerala is gearing up for its state assembly elections to be held on 16th May, but are you ready? Never fear, we have you covered with this quick guide to the political scene in God’s own country.

1. Kerala has a history of support for Communist ideology

In 1957, Kerala became the first Indian state, and one of the first places anywhere in the world, to democratically elect a communist government. Kerala’s culture of social activism and general political awareness have allowed the Left Democratic Front (LDF), led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M), to become a powerful force in the state. This influence is felt in the ‘Kerala Model’ of development that has allowed Kerala to achieve developed world-like levels of development in education and healthcare. This has also resulted in a high degree of political participation in the state, which averages at least 70% voter turnout in almost all elections.

2. Kerala politics has been monopolised by two factions- LDF and UDF

Kerala politics has historically been bipolar, with the LDF and the Congress-led UDF as the dominant players on the political scene. The two sides have a bitter rivalry that dates back to 1957 when the country’s first democratically elected Communist Government was overthrown with the imposition of President’s Rule by the Congress-led Central Government. The rivalry has been further fuelled by the fact that both groups command similar levels of support. In the 2011 assembly election, UDF ended up defeating LDF by a narrow margin of just 4 seats. Indeed, since 1982, there has been an unbroken trend of alternating power between UDF and LDF, with no other party able to break this duopoly.

3. The Congress-led UDF government has been staggering and facing backlash…

The UDF government faces an uphill battle to get re-elected in the upcoming elections. Even neglecting the history of alternating UDF and LDF rule, the Government faces a strong anti-incumbency sentiment in the electorate. UDF has experienced a severe backlash over the government’s alleged complicity in high profile scandals like the Bar Bribery Scandal and the Solar Panel Scam. These have diverted the public’s attention from CM Oomen Chandy’s pro-development policy agenda. Recent tragedies like the Kollam Temple Explosion and widely reported assaults on women are likely to cause further damage to their prospects in the election.

4. … And the LDF party seems to take full advantage of the situations to unseat its long-time rival

LDF hopes to benefit from the rapid decline in support for the ruling UDF coalition. Having identified UDF’s weaknesses, the LDF has constantly attacked it over the various scandals that have emerged during its leadership. There is the feeling that UDF is paying the price for its own complacency while in power and LDF will seek to leverage its unmatched organisational setup in the state and emerge victorious in the election. Pinarayi Vijayan, the probable CM contender from LDF, is confident of winning more than 100 seats in the 140-member state assembly.

5. The BJP has opened up a new front in the battle this time

LDF may well have crowned themselves victors already, except that for the first time in decades, there is a new player to worry about. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which has been trying to expand its national influence since its victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, has identified Kerala as a state where it can break into the political mainstream. The NDA is eager to score its maiden runs on the pitch of Kerala, and is buoyed by its strong showing in the 2015 local body elections. NDA leaders have embarrassed their opponents by pointing out that Congress and the Left Front have allied against BJP in West Bengal, while they remain bitter opponents in Kerala, and are insistent that it’s time the people had an alternative to the UDF-LDF duopoly.

However, NDA has a relatively weak organisation in the state, and it remains to be seen whether it will be able to open its account in the state, or whether the well-established alternating cycle between UDF and LDF will assert itself again.

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