BJP's Strategic Moves Worry CPM in Kerala

The BJP came first in 11 constituencies and second in five, with most of its growth coming at the expense of the CPM
BJP's Strategic Moves Worry CPM in Kerala

The CPM in Kerala, once confident that the BJP's rise would primarily challenge the Congress, now faces the alarming reality of the BJP making significant inroads into its traditional Hindu vote base. The BJP's win in the Thrissur seat, where it secured its first victory in Kerala, is a notable example. The BJP also came first in 11 constituencies and second in five, with most of its growth coming at the expense of the CPM.

The BJP's expansion has raised concerns within the CPM leadership. Dr. T M Thomas Isaac, a former finance minister and CPM central committee member, highlighted multiple reasons for the BJP's encroachment into the Left's support base. He noted that the Sangh Parivar has successfully introduced Hindutva communalism into Kerala's political landscape, despite resistance from secular and democratic forces and renaissance traditions. This strategy has boosted the BJP's vote share, not just in Kerala, but across the southern region.

Isaac pointed out that the BJP has cleverly utilized temples and associated religious bodies. The CPM's withdrawal from temple-related committees has facilitated RSS control over these institutions.The CPM is particularly concerned about the BJP's growing influence among Kerala's caste and community groups, including the SNDP, NSS, and Dalits.

The SNDP represents the dominant OBC Ezhava community, which makes up 23% of the state's population and has been a cornerstone of the Left movement for decades. The SNDP, led by general secretary Vellapally Natesan, includes several ministers and MLAs. However, Natesan's son, Thushar Vellapally, is the president of Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) and convenor of the BJP-led NDA in Kerala, creating a direct connection between the BJP-RSS and SNDP grassroots members. Natesan's frequent criticisms of Muslims and allegations of appeasement have bolstered the BJP's communal campaign.

The NSS, representing the influential forward caste Nair community, has officially kept its distance from the BJP-RSS. However, many Karayogam (micro-level unit) members have shifted towards the BJP. NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair advocates an equidistance policy but often voices opposition to the CPM-led government. During the 2021 assembly elections, Nair publicly called for the CPM's defeat on polling day, despite the Pinarayi Vijayan government accommodating the community, including on the EWS issue. Notably, nine out of the 21 members of the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet belong to the Nair community, which makes up 14% of the state's population.

Dalits, who constitute 10% of the state's population and have traditionally supported the Left, currently have no representation in the LDF cabinet. The BJP has made inroads into Dalit communities in districts like Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, and Thrissur, raising further concerns for the CPM.

Additionally, the BJP has gained traction within the Christian community, which makes up 18% of the state's population. According to Isaac, a faction known as the Krisanghis (Christian Sanghis) has emerged within the Christian community, united by animosity towards Muslims. This group's influence is even noticeable within the Kerala Council of Churches, previously known for its progressive views.

Left leaders believe a thorough assessment of these factors is necessary to develop an effective political and tactical response. They need to determine which sections of the Hindu communities have shifted and to what extent, and whether these shifts are permanent or merely floating votes. Despite the BJP's inconsistent expansion throughout the state, the CPM remains optimistic about recovering lost ground by leveraging its robust organizational network.