Counting has started in Kerala in arguably the most eagerly awaited assembly elections in Kerala’s recent history, and the first trends will be available by 8:00 AM.
The voting this time created a lot of excitement for one key reason — the rise of the BJP and the inevitable pain that it will cause to the other parties in the field — Congress-led UDF and the Left Democratic Front or LDF.
Traditional wisdom said that rise of Hindutva-oriented BJP would cripple the LDF — which gets about 70% of its votes from various Hindu communities — rather than the UDF — which gets about 70% of its votes from Christian and Muslim communities.
However, this wisdom was turned on its head in last year’s local body elections, when BJP raised its vote share from about 5.6% four years ago to over 15%.
The saffron party could have further increased its vote share in the current assembly elections. But it was faced with a series of set backs recently, including the issue of ‘gau mata’ (cow mother) — under which it campaigned against the consumption of beef (a staple in Kerala).
The so-called rise of the right-wing Hindutva fringe, such as Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi, has also driven away moderate voters from the party in Kerala — a place known for its high levels of religious diversity and tolerance.
The Left parties, being more under threat from BJP’s rise, have effectively highlighted many of these extremist developments to the voters in Kerala, even holding public ‘Beef Festivals’ when Sangh outfits reportedly protested the serving of beef at an event in a prominent college in Thrissur.
EZHAVA, SYRIAN VOTES KEY
The results of the assembly elections in Kerala this time will depend on two factors — the success or failure of BJP’s attempts to woo the Ezhava community, and whether or not the Syrian Christian community (about 13% of the population) continue to support Oommen Chandy.
The BJP has left no stone unturned in trying to get the Ezhavas on board as it has more or less saturated its penetration among the upper-caste Hindu voters, who form about 15% of Kerala’s population.
It is estimated that the BJP has successfully managed to increase its vote share among upper-caste Kerala voters to about 45% — thus clearly replacing the Congress Party as the primary choice among these communities.
The second spot continues to be occupied by the Left parties, whose share among upper castes has fallen only slightly since the BJP emerged — from about one third to about one fourth now. (Congress continues with a 30% share.)
The challenge this time for the BJP was to expand its base away from upper castes to middle castes (primarily Ezhava) and Dalits.
After decades of unsuccessful solicitation of Ezhava votes (21% of total), the party this time tried a unique strategy of encouraging the creation of an Ezhava-led ‘social justice’ party called Bharat Dharma Jana Sena or BDJS. The party was created by Vellappalli Nateshan, the head of the most prominent Ezhava organization — the SNDP.
The BDJS was included in BJP’s NDA alliance and given around 45 seats out of the total 140 to fight in the hope that it would at least defeat the Left by eating into its Ezhava base if not secure a victory for the NDA.
The second factor that comes into play how loyal the Syrian Christians remain to the Congress Party, which has — over the last ten years — transformed itself into a Syrian Christian-dominated outfit from a Hindu upper-caste + Syrian Christian + Muslim upper class organization.
While around 70% of Syrian Christians voted for the UDF last time, it remains to be seen if they will vote with the same enthusiasm this time due to the high number of corruption charges and scandals surrounding the Congress administration in the state.
The non-Syrian Christian communities, who are more recent converts from the Hindu fold, tend to follow a more mixed voting pattern, though they tend to avoid voting for the BJP.
Similarly, the Muslim votes also tend to be more evenly divided between the two fronts, though the Congress alliance often has a slight edge. This time, however, anti-incumbency, the rise of the BJP and corruption allegations faced by UDF leaders are expected to negate the advantage and increase Left’s share of the votes from this community (about 27% of the total votes).
The exit poll results have pointed to about 80-85 seats to the LDF and about 52-57 seats to the UDF and up to three seats for the BJP alliance.
Counting has started and initial trends will indicate results from postal ballots.
The numbers will be given in the charts below. To update the charts, please refresh the page every two minutes or so.