By Prof KC Abraham*
There is a deep sense of concern in the secular, progressive and democratic mind of Kerala about the result of the May 16th Assembly election. The anxiety oscillates between optimism and pessimism; pessimism about the end of era of secular social living and the continuation of the political group in government, infamous for its notorious political culture. It is an anxiety about the possible emergence of communal political force as a decisive force. Optimism hinges on the end of a shameless innings of plunder, corruption and deception, over the years. This optimism resides on the possible coming of a responsible, corruption-free, transparent governance with a perspective agenda of development for Kerala’s march ahead as a unique society with an exceptional dynamism and functioning as an exemplary model for other states.
Lessons of Electoral Experience
The election experience of Kerala since 1957 has been the success of the either of the secular welfare oriented political outfits, led by the congress and communists. Most of the elections were fought over competitive welfareism. The unique feature of Kerala’s politics has been that it was not controlled or influenced decisively by communal or caste forces, till the end of 1990’s. Also corruption was not deep-rooted and rampant as in other parts of the country, at the political level, till the same period.
Communalism and Corruption to the fore
Last 20 years witnessed the vitiating influence of communalism and corruption in the political life of Kerala. The two maladies which were dormant or at a very low scale, came into active form and stay as inevitable factors of “developmental politics”.
There was the influence of the communal and caste organizations in Kerala politics, especially in the electoral politics since the first election in 1957. The first elected government of EMS was sabotaged by the combined and concerted agitation by all the communal organizations sphereheaded by the Muslim and Christian leadership. Since, then the ‘Minorities’ acted as ‘aggressive pressure groups’ to extract leverages from the government. The Minority Politics was effectively exploited by the UDF for electoral gains, while the LDF went out of their declared principle to appease them. Even today, major chunk of the Muslims and Christians stand as a forte behind the UDF. It is demonstrated by the number of MLAs, who by and large hail from Christian and Muslim majority areas.
The privileges enjoyed by the minorities in the education sector is too evident; This situation is also sanctioned by the special constitutional protection for minorities. However, this does not mean that the majority community represented organizationally by the SNDP and NSS, are excluded; they also have substantial number of institutions in the education and health sectors and enjoy the ‘Reservation’ privilege in government jobs. While the advantage of educational institutions under the minority communities percolated to every section both horizontally and vertically in the minority communities, it remained largely in the creamy zone of the majority communities. Hence the large section within the Hindu community remain aggrieved and disadvantaged.
2016 – Assembly Election:- Corruption to the background and Communalism to the foreground
In recent times communalism has crept into the minds of people as a ‘sanctified – inevitable’ factor in political life. And the apathy and untouchability towards corruption is dimming.
The RSS, the extreme fringe of the ‘Hindu’ group, that was lying low for a long time in Kerala politics got emboldened by this situation and began to come to the foreground. Since the beginning of the 2000’s, Kerala witnessed the vitiating of it’s political life by this communal forces overtly. The RSS, that was proxy playing through it’s political arm of BJP, took over it’s direct role, after the Hindutva force came to power in many states and finally at the centre in 2014. The so called Minorities too began to display political role more virulently. Till, 2011, the RSS, unable to make an entry into the Kerala Assembly was freely marketing it’s ‘vote’ wealth. The simmering discontent among certain sections of the Hindu community fuelled by the aggressive avariciousness of the Minorities, coming of the BJP to power, all combined together, enabled the Hindu Communal Forces to play ‘ Open Communal Politics’. The RSS, came to the direct command of the BJP, after the substantial electoral gain made by the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP central leadership, with it’s shrewd game, succeed in roping in the SNDP leadership into it’s fold. It is rather the convenient flirting together of ambitious interests. This is a deceitful act of the SNDP leadership to cover up their commission and omission in spreading the benefits received from every government, to weaker segment of the Ezhava Community. Rival extremists communal fringe groups have emerged from the Muslim community, camouflaged in progressive titles.
Now what will be the aftermath of 2016 assembly election. This has to be viewed in the light of the emergence of the communal political forces, the critical test for the UDF and decisive reckoning of the Left. For the BJP, it never nurture a hope of a victory with a major number but any number is a major victory. A defeat awaits terrible fall outs for the UDF, especially for the chief minister and his coterie. The present dispensation known for its shrewdness and ruthlessness for political survival and at ease with covert acts, may enter into some clandestine understanding with the BJP eventually resulting in mutual benefit. It will be a deal of inevitabilities, i.e Inevitable survival for the UDF, especially the CM and inevitable legislative presence for the BJP. For the Left, further another loss in election will impact on their credibility and relevance. Hence they try to arouse an apprehension about Hindu communal threat among minorities.
Tragically, the poison of communal hatred is infused into the blood of Kerala’s body politic. It will be perineal threat to the secular social fabric of Kerala. If the incumbent is re-elected it would be a democratic certification of blatant corruption and deceitful governance. A Malayali, proud of his political ethos, will not let down secularism, honest politics and accountability on May 16th.
*The author is the Academic Director of Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi; views expressed by him are personal and does not reflect or anyways represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.