Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikode: Why Bad News For Congress Begins From Northern Kerala Itself

Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikode: Why Bad News For Congress Begins From Northern Kerala Itself

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - Tuesday, March 23, 2021 12:43 PM IST
Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikode: Why Bad News For Congress Begins From Northern Kerala ItselfKerala
  • It is qualitatively clear that a rise in the BJP’s vote share is more from the Congress’ kitty, in those seats where a visible swing is on, than from the Left.

    Add to that the exodus of Christian votes from the Congress to the Left, at the behest of the Christian Kerala Congress.

This is the first of a four-part series, which analyses the election scenario in Kerala region by region, and is partly based on a fairly detailed state-wide survey conducted by Manorama-VMR last week.

According to this survey, there is something curious happening in North Kerala; specifically, in the Assembly seats in the four districts of Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikode.

It appears that the Marxist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is set to sweep 27 of the 32 seats on offer in this region, with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) getting only four seats, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) opening its account in Manjeshwar.

This is a projected net gain of three seats for the Left, in what has traditionally been their stronghold, and is bolstered by a forecast swing of votes from the UDF, mainly to the LDF, and a bit to the BJP.

The big news is an unequivocal finding that the BJP will win Manjeshwar — a seat which BJP state president K. Surendran lost in 2016 by less than 100 votes (and only because the Left flipped their votes to the Indian Union Muslim League [IUML, a UDF constituent] late in the afternoon, when it became clear that Surendran was coasting to a victory.

A second development is in Kuthuparamba seat, in Kannur district, where a BJP surge is set to push the IUML to third place. As on date though, that surge is not projected to be enough for the BJP to upset the Left, partly because a chunk of Muslim votes is simultaneously shifting to the Left; meaning, that tactical voting is transforming a potentially, evenly-matched three-way contest into a two-way fight between the BJP and the Left.

But the biggest story comes from Zamorin realms: the BJP is within three percentage points of winning Kozhikode North seat. It is a genuine triangular contest going on in this port city, and for the BJP, is a rational progression from their recent, substantial gains there in the 2020 local body polls.

The BJP candidate is MT Ramesh, an old hand with widespread recall, and an ability to distill concepts and issues into easily-communicable lines. Now, with a solid party setup in place, a growing vote base, and a number of freshly-elected ward councillors in the Corporation on hand to thwart political intimidation, the BJP could win here if they campaign intelligently.

Vying for second spot in the breaking news stakes is a headline from the hills: ‘Wayanad rejects Rahul Gandhi’.

Startlingly, the substantial Christian vote in these parts (21 per cent) appears to be shifting from the Congress to the Left, and in spite of continued Muslim patronage of the Congress courtesy the League, the LDF is set to sweep all three seats in the district.

To make matters worse, Ms. KC Rosakutty, a prominent Christian face in Wayanad, and Vice-President of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, on 22 March resigned from the party; she followed that up with an astringent reproof of Mr. Gandhi’s organisational skills (to put it mildly) in a perceptibly anguished tone.

Interestingly, the Left is also set to pip the IUML in multiple seats in North Kerala. The last time that happened in a marked fashion was in 2006 (which in turn was a lingering ripple from the 2004 Lok Sabha elections), when a section of the Muslim vote angrily switched from the IUML to the Left, over the Congress’ benign reticence towards a patent immorality underlying the second Gulf War in 2003.

You ignore the Ummah’s pained heart at your electoral peril — if you are dependent on its vote.

For this reason, the IUML is actually on the backfoot for once. That has led them to make a few desperate moves.

The steeply-rising popularity of the BJP’s candidate in Kozhikode South seat, Navya Haridas, a software engineer who quit her job with HSBC to join politics, has forced the League to select a woman candidate for this constituency.

It is a turn-up for the books, since this is only the second time in history that the IUML has nominated a woman candidate — ever.

As a result, Kozhikode South’s two-time sitting MLA, MK Muneer, has been unceremoniously packed off to reclaim Koduvally constituency, the smuggled-gold capital of Kerala.

That is a tough ask for this dynast son of late League stalwart CH Mohammed Koya, who was briefly Chief Minister for a few messy weeks in 1979, and the only Muslim to ever hold that post in Kerala.

The reason being that in 2016, the Muslim League lost Koduvally to a Left-supported Muslim turncoat of the League by a mere 573 seats because, hold your breath, eight per cent of the local vote went to a Muslim BJP candidate named Ali Akbar.

So must we ask: are these survey projections credible?

Answer: yes.

Why do they seem credible?

Answer: because these findings tie in with the changed political dynamics of the state, electoral math, anecdotal evidence, ground reports, conventional political wisdom, and importantly, because they also match the results of other surveys by Asianet and Times Now C-Voter.

The main reason is that the Manorama-VMR survey reflects what commentators are saying — that the Ezhava OBC vote is still sticking for the main part with the Left.

There is some visible gravitation of these votes from the Left to the BJP, but only in pockets; it is not yet a wave, and not enough to dislodge the Communists.

This is because the projected shift of the Ezhava OBC vote, from the Left to the BJP, is offset by the partial shift of the Christian vote from the UDF to the Left, in enough seats, for the Left to retain the popular mandate.

Of the 32 seats covered in this piece, it is seen repeatedly that the Christian vote is shifting decisively from the Congress-UDF to the Left (the projected gains in vote shares for the Left in all three seats of Wayanad district being a case in point).

Everyone other than the Congress in Kerala said that Pinarayi Vijayan’s breaking of the UDF, and his successful wooing of the main Christian party, the Kerala Congress of Jose K Mani, was a political masterstroke.

It proved its worth in the 2020 December local body polls in Kerala, when the LDF swept the state, and it looks like it will prove its worth again in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Second, and as previously reported on multiple occasions by Swarajya, a section of the Muslim community in Kerala is getting so increasingly fed up with identity politics, that it is willing to junk the Congress and align with the Communists.

These Muslims might not have the motivation to go the whole hog and vote for the BJP just yet, but a Moplah rejectionist trend of past voting patterns is becoming apparent this electoral season.

That is why a projected LDF sweep of all 13 Assembly seats in Kozhikode district appears plausible.

Third, the Ezhava-Nair divide is finally beginning to blur in the cities, in favor of the BJP, though it is still very much in place in moffusil and rural areas.

Nonetheless, it is qualitatively clear that a rise in the BJP’s vote share is more from the Congress’ kitty, in those seats where a visible swing is on, than from the Left.

Add to that the exodus of Christian votes from the Congress to the Left, at the behest of the Christian Kerala Congress, and the recent opinion polls accrue a legitimacy that is hard to contradict.

This is the prevailing situation in North Kerala as on date, and Swarajya shall continue to survey ongoing developments through further pieces this election season, as we work our way south across Parashurama’s land.

(This is the first in a four-part series on the 2021 Kerala Assembly elections)

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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