Kerala went to polls on May 16 after an extensive campaigning by the left, the right, and the NDA which failed to capture a single constituency since the institution of the state of Kerala. When the ballot box revealed the people’s choice on May 19, the results were revolutionary, questioning the various theories on voting behaviour in Kerala held by experts so far.
Once touted as a recalcitrant state that largely ignored the “Modi wave” that swept the nation, turned its sight towards the saffron beacon this time, by choosing O Rajagopal from Nemom. There was a substantial erosion of vote-share from both the Congress and the Left, which went to NDA this year, which evidently signifies a shift in attitude of the majority Hindu population in the state, which held a largely secular outlook so far unlike the BJP – RSS offshoots which took root in the state through a temple-kavu-centered approach.
To understand the changing political scenario in the state, one has to understand the psychology behind vote-shares and the various ideologies that take part in the decision making process in the minds of the voters.
- Being a hundred per cent literate state, the voters in the state are well-aware of their politicians and they so far prevented any party or leader to ossify their presence by giving them not more than one term at a time. Kerala voters always made it a point to wage a successful anti-incumbency wave at the end of every term, thereby alternating between the Left and the Right governments. This move by the people not only prevents stagnating of the government, but also keeps a strong and active opposition in the government.
- Another psychological factor that plays a major role in Kerala politics, is that of party identity. The Communists, and the Congress so far played their cards taking advantage of the voter’s psychological attachment to their party identity, which remained faithful to their respective leanings, irrespective of the issues and controversies at hand.
- Third factor is the caste identity that usually garners a large share of votes for the communist party, which takes on the pro-poor, socialist outlook. Castes played a large role in 2016 elections. The Ezhava community votes that usually went to the Left, changed its course this year, by choosing BJP over the Communists as an alternative to Congress. A large share of votes from the lower castes went to the BJP, ushering a new age of saffronization in the state. The kavu-temple-centered organized society propagated by the BJP and its offshoots like RSS and the BDJS played in right in the minds of a largely religious and ritualistic Hindu population in the state.
- Fourth psychological factor that plays a major role in Kerala politics is money. Money is the major factor that covertly turned the tides favourably for tainted candidates and also for the newly independent stalwarts in the state. Crores of rupees and party workers campaigning day and night have caused a significant influence on the psyche of the voters this year.
- The fifth factor that influences the voters psychologically is the local issues. The local issues like Puttingal disaster, Bar Scam, and Jisha rape and murder case have caused a significant shift in the political leanings of the population. It was interesting to note that Modi’s visit to Kerala and his speeches almost always centred around these very local issues, and in spite of his Somalian faux pas, his campaigns yielded a historic breakthrough for BJP into the Kerala legislative assembly.
However, in spite of the consolidation of Hindu votes in favour of BJP in some constituency, majority of the population made a calculated decision to choose the Communist alternative. The continued failure of communalistic ideologies to penetrate into the Malayalee mindset, largely owes it to the high literacy level in the state.