The article has been co-authored by Savvya Saachi (political analyst from Kerala) and yours truly Politicalbaaba.
We have been listening to the very same question for decades. The most literate state in India is yet to give a single seat to the largest party in India. BJP lost 2 seats in 2011 Assembly Elections between cup and lips (Manjeshwar 5.8k and Nemom 6.4k) while they lost Trivandrum Parliament Constituency by a whisker (1.8% margin).
Kerala has always remained a fertile land for Sangh Parivar. This is the state where RSS has got highest number of Sakhas in India (4,500) but not even a single MLA / MP leave aside govt. formation.
Why BJP has failed to open account in Kerala?
Even after having such an advantage, party has not been able to t reap the benefits of this strong organizational base until now. Some of the significant reasons are given below-
1) The demographical set up of Kerala. Hindus account for 54% while Muslims and Christians form the remaining 46%. They remain as the traditional vote bank of UDF(Congress led United Democratic Front), a section of them does vote for LDF(CPIM led Left Democratic Front) too.
Kerala accounts for the 3rd highest Muslim population (after J&K and Assam) and 2nd highest Christian (after Goa and excluding North Eastern states) population in India. Combined the minorities account for 45% of population. Historically minorities have voted in large numbers for the Congress as seen below.
Muslim Community Voting Pattern Christian Community Voting Pattern
Source: CSDS Post Poll Survey
2) Majority of the Hindus (Ezhava (23%), OBC, SC and ST communities(together form 11%) traditionally slanted towards LDF while the Nairs(14%) have adhered to both UDF & LDF.
Nair Community Voting Pattern Ezhavas Community Voting Pattern
Source: CSDS Post Poll Survey
3) Moreover, LDF as well as UDF have campaigned heavily against BJP by stamping them as a communal force. It hampered its growth in Kerala and it failed to form a formidable third front in the state
The Changing Scenario
BJP were limping around with a meagre 6-6.4% vote share since 2005 to 2011. The ‘Modi Wave’ of 2014, helped BJP led NDA immensely to increase its vote share by around 70%. NDA hit an all-time high vote share of 10.83% in May, 2014. In Kerala it became the no. 3 party ahead of CPI. It was leading in 4 assembly segments out of total 140 seats and was runner up in 2 seats.
BJP strengthened its position over the years among the Hindu community and a section of the community now sees it as an alternative to the 30 years of Congress / Left alternate rule.
BJP vote share among two top Hindu Groups in Kerala
Source: CSDS Post Poll Survey
During the Local Body Election in 2015, BJP had an unofficial tie up with SNDP, the largest Organization of Ezhava Community, in some areas. This tie up along with a good number of Nair, OBC votes helped BJP to take its vote share somewhere near 14%.
BJP for the first time gained power in a local body in Kerala in Nov. 2015, taking control of the Palakkad municipality. The party also made inroads in Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Ernakulam. In the 100-member Thiruvananthapuram City Corporation, BJP won 34 seats, pushing Congress led alliance to 3rd position with 21 seats.
The continuous efforts made by the Centre Leadership under Amit Shah to strengthen NDA finally got a boost when the Predominant Ezhava Organization decided to part its way with LDF to form a separate party for their welfare. This new party, Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) became a part of NDA last month.
NDA got another boost when prominent Tribal Leader C.K.Janu decided to join hands with NDA to contest from Sulthan Bathery(ST Seat) in Assembly Election. Her new party Janadhipathya Rashtreeya Sabha(JRS) became a part of NDA this week. Small parties like Rajan Babu fraction of JSS, P.C.Thomas fraction of Kerala Congress, LJP etc are also with NDA now.
Out of the 140 seats, BJP is slated to contest in 95 seats, BDJS in 37 and Others in 8.
PM’s swift interference in the tragedy held in Kollam a few days back, has increasd his popularity in the state. His arrival to at Kollam District hospital to see the relatives of the diseased and those who injured in the incident, has really brought in number of appreciation even from his ‘Haters’.
Even the Christian community is also warming up to the idea of supporting BJP. The party is expected to improve its vote share to upto 5% from 1% currently.
Prospects of BJP in 2016
As far as the current trend shows, BJP led NDA has got ‘Good to Best’ chances in 15 constituencies. We divide them into 3 TIERS based on the votes BJP gained during Civic Polls and the strength of BDJS and other small outfits in NDA in those constituencies.
|TIER 1 SEATS||
TIER 2 SEATS
TIER 3 SEATS
|1) NEMOM- O.RAJAGOPAL (Senior most leader of the Party in Kerala)
2) VATTIYOORKKAVU- KUMMANAM RAJASEKHARAN (BJP State President)
|1) KAZHAKOOTTAM- MURALEEDHARAN (Former State President)
2) MANJESHWARAM- K.SURENDRAN (State General Secretary)
3) CHENGANNOOR-P.S.SREEDHARAN PILLAI (Former State President)
4) PALAKKAD- SOBHA SURENDRAN
|1) KASARAGOD- RAVISHA TANTRI KUNTAR (Secretary, Hindu Aikyavedhi)
2) ARANMULA- M.T.RAMESH (General Secretary)
3) KATTAKKADA- P.K.KRISHNADAS ( Former State President & National Executive Member)
4) SULTHAN BATHERI- C.K.JANU (Tribal Leader)
5) KAIPAMANGALAM- UNNIKRISHNAN THASHNATH (BDJS Central Committee Member)
6) NATTIKA- T.V.BABU (General Secretary, BDJS and KPMS Leader)
7) KUTTANAD- SUBHASH VASU (General Secretary, BDJS)
8) NEDUMANGAD- V.V.RAJESH (Secretary, State BJP)
Latest trend reinforces the fact that BJP led NDA is going to have its presence in Kerala Assembly this time. They could generate a feeling among a notable section of voters that they can be relied as a Third Alternative at least in 15 seats. The votes this alliance is going to garner, will surely affect the chances of both LDF as well as UDF at least in 70 constituencies.
BDJS is expect to get 4-5% vote share (c.20% additional Ezhavas votes) given the existing situation which is expected to boost the chances of BJP in Kerala.
The opportunistic alliance of Left and Congress in West Bengal may also have an impact on Congress fortunes in the state. If not this time, it certainly opens doors for BJP to become the no. 2 party in the state in 2021.
As per the trend in Kerala, Left is expected to win elections in 2016. As people have a great liking for change in the state, BJP could position itself for unseating Left in 2021. BJP has bigger plans in the state and strong performance in terms of vote share / seats will help it in its long term strategy.