Politics of Kerala

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This article deals with the local politics of Indian state of Kerala
Kiss of Love protest 2014
Vypin Strike

Political activity in the Indian State of Kerala takes place in a multi-party democratic framework, within the overall context of the National Politics of India. The state holds an invariable position of having the largest politically aware and active population in the Country. The state Legislature is unicameral and has a membership of 141, where 140 are elected and one is nominated from the Anglo-Indian community. It has 20 seats in the Lok Sabha and 9 seats in the Rajya Sabha. Elections are also held to choose representatives to the civic bodies at various levels within the State. and The State has consistently come out with a voter turnout of 70% or above in almost all elections which was ever held.

The background[edit]

Politics in Kerala is dominated by two coalition fronts: the Communist Party of India(Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Indian National Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) since late 1970s. These two coalitions have been alternatively voted to power since 1982. Most of the major political parties in Kerala, except for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), belong to one or the other of these two alliances and have in the past shifting allegiances a number of times. In Kerala, it is difficult for a single party to contest and win even a single seat, because the voter perception is towards voting for a front. The BJP has been able to register its presence with one seat in Nemom [1] in the assembly in spite of the fact that it is the third largest party in Kerala after Congress and CPM.[2] According to 2016 Kerala Legislative Assembly election results, the LDF has a majority in the State Assembly (91/140). The political alliances have stabilized strongly in such a manner that, with rare exceptions, most of the coalition partners stick their loyalty to the respective alliances. As a result of this, ever since 1979, the power has been clearly alternating between the two fronts without any exceptions. However, till then the political scenario in Kerala was characterized by continually shifting alliances, party mergers and splits, factionalism within the coalitions and within political parties, and the formation of a numerous splinter groups.[3]

Leftist inclination[edit]

The social thought and behavior of the State in general has a strong inclination towards Leftism and thus the Communist parties have made strong inroads in Kerala. The Malabar region, particularly Kannur and Palakkad are considered to heartland of Communist parties. The Kollam and Alapuzha districts, where trade unions have very strong presence, are generally inclined towards the Left parties; though the UDF have won elections from the constituencies of these districts several times. The largest Communist party in terms of membership is CPI (M) and the second is CPI. Kerala was the first Indian state where the communists were voted to power.[4] Another soft leftist party called the Indian National Congress have a very strong presence in Kerala. The party has strong bases in Ernakulam and Kottayam regions. Even though the Congress party at the National level is more inclined towards Centrism, in the State it is also lenient towards Socialism or rather a Socialistic outlook than in the other parts of the Country.

Mural by Farmers' Union, Alappuzha
Ranadive Memorial, Alappuzha
Election campaign in Kerala
A rally by toddy worker's trade union

Regional parties[edit]

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is a communist leader
  • Indian Union Muslim League, is a powerful pro-Muslim community oriented party, which was started as Muslim League prior to partition of India, yet decided to retain their allegiance to India after partition, when the original Muslim League went to Pakistan. The IUML-Kerala unit is the only Muslim League unit, which declared its allegiance and loyalty to India, and hence became a state party, in post-independent India. The party has strongholds mostly in Muslim dominated districts like Malappuram. and they form the second largest party within UDF. Mass population of Muslims in Malappuram supports the Indian Union Muslim League in most of the elections.[5]
  • Kerala Congress, which has more than 4 denominations, after breaking away from original party, has strong influence among settlement populations in hilly regions. The various Kerala Congress denominations are primarily patronized by Syrian Christian community mostly in Central Travancore areas like Kottayam, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Muvattupuzha. Today, most of Kerala Congress parties are with UDF.
  • Socialist groups, consisting of several small fragmented parties like NCP, SJD-S, JDS, Congress-S, are mainly pro-center left socialist parties having very limited influences in few pocket areas. Most of the socialist groups are with LDF, though at few instances, some of them changed their loyalties to UDF.
  • Communist parties, consists of various communist parties, which have broken away from CPIM which mostly are Center left parties and few are extreme left. While a few centre left parties like RSP have joined with LDF, those broken away from CPIM, like CMP, JSS etc., led by erstwhile CPIM veterans who were expelled from CPIM have joined with UDF.

Coalition politics[edit]

Constituencies of Kerala with district boundaries

The two main political coalitions in Kerala are the leftist Left Democratic Front, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Centrist United Democratic Front, led by the Indian National Congress. Since the early 1980s these two coalitions have alternated in government with neither Front able to gain re-election for a second term. Clashes between supporters of the two coalitions have occurred periodically. Both the INC and the CPI(M) have accused the other of corruption, promoting or condoning political violence, and "the general breakdown of law and order" during their periods in government.[6]

The Student Federation of India (SFI) is the student arm of the CPI(M), while the Kerala Student Union (KSU) is a pioneer of the students’ movement of the INC. The two major parties and their student wings have a long history of enmity in Kerala.[7]

Bandhs and Harthals[edit]

Vyttila junction during a harthal

Direct action and political violence has become the characteristics of Kerala society in India. The state treasury of Kerala has suffered losses of thousands of millions of rupees, thanks to the state staging over 100 hartals annually in recent times. A record total of 223 harthals were observed in 2006, resulting in a revenue loss of over 2000 crore.[8] There were around 363 of "Hartals", called by different political parties, between 2005 and 2012. Hartals are called for various reasons, political, economic and social.[9][10] According to the Organisor, Kerala has the highest level of losss of manhours due to industrial unrest and the state has organized the highest number of strikes and harthals in the country.[11]

The epicenter of violence[edit]

Kannur is the most violent district in Kerala. In 2016, two political workers called K.Shyju and Sudheesh were hacked to death by their opponents.[12] In February, 2016 an RSS activist who was ferrying schoolchildren was dragged out of his autorikshaw and hacked to death. The police suspected the communists for this action. During the last 45 years, about 180 people were killed because of political violence in Kannur district of Kerala.[13][14]

Kannur is historically linked with rebellion because Guerrilla King Pazhashi Raja fought against the British in this region. Kannur is the homeland of communist veterans like A K Gopalan, E K Nayanar and Azhikodan Raghavan. Most of the victims in political are from the toddy tapper community, which a branch of the Thiyya caste.

RSS - CPI (M) rows[edit]

Most often the fight in Kerala is between CPIM and RSS. Sometimes the fight is between CPIM and Muslim ground representatives. A few years ago, in retaliation to what happened in Kannur, RSS workers attacked the CPI-M's national headquarters in Delhi, the CPI-M state secretary in Karnataka, Visakhapatnam and Madurai on the same day.[15]

Vigilante attacks[edit]

Vigilante attacks and moral policing are the most common threats to the tourist industry in the state of Kerala, India. Even though literacy is high in this part of India, tolerance levels are very low. The remoteness of Kerala from major Indian cities have developed a rural or tribal attitude in the people that doesn't tolerate any challenges to traditional lifestyle and culture. There were several instances of moral policing in Kerala in the 2000s. The people of Kerala are generally educated and tolerant, but religious conservatism is an issues of concern here and unmarried couples can be questioned publicly for holding hands or walking together in a park. Marriage is supposed to be the beginning of any courtship in this part of the world.Young people have been attacked several times for walking together before getting married. Even married couples were attacked under the assumption that they are a pair in love. Visitors are advissed to bring your passport, air ticket and marriage certificate. It is better to avoid expressions as girlfriend, living together and LGBT. The situation has changed a lot as far as moral policing, the society is now much more tolerant to change, especially in the cities.

Kiss of Love protest[edit]

Kiss of Love protest is a non-violent protest against moral policing which started in Kerala, India, and later spread to other parts of India.[16][17][18][19][20] The movement began when a Facebook page called 'Kiss of love' called forth the youth across Kerala to participate in a protest against moral policing on November 2, 2014, at Marine Drive, Cochin.[21][22] The movement received widespread support with more than 154,404 'Likes' for the Facebook page.[23][24] After the initial protest in Kochi, similar protests were organised in other major cities of the country. It received opposition from various religious and political groups like Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, SDPI, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Sena and Ernakulam wing of Kerala Students Union.[25][26][27][28] On specific occasions but not exclusively, both the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court have made it clear that kissing in public is not an obscene act and no criminal proceedings can be initiated, for kissing in public, through landmark judgments.[29][30][31][32][33]

Election results[edit]

CPM office in Amarambalam, Nilambur

Results for the Kerala Legislative Assembly have been:

Year UDF LDF Others Government (majority)
1982 77 63 0 UDF (14)
1987 61 78 1 LDF (16)
1991 90 48 2 UDF (40)
1996 59 80 1 LDF (20)
2001 99 40 1 UDF (59)
2006 42 98 0 LDF (56)
2011 72 68 0 UDF (4)
2016 47 91 2 LDF (44)

e • d Summary of the April 22, April 29 and May 3, 2006 Kerala Legislative Assembly election results
Parties and blocs Votes % Seats +/–
Left Democratic Front 7,558,834 48.63 99 +56
United Democratic Front 6,679,557 42.98 40 -56
Total (turnout 72.25%) 15,542,679 100 140


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  5. ^ Shifting sands Frontline Volume 26 - Issue 08 :: Apr. 11-24, 2009
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  10. ^ "India - 363 hartals in 7 years in Kerala!" - A News Report on 17-09-2012 from Pressenza
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  22. ^ Philip, Shaju (October 28, 2014). "Youth to mark Nov 2 as 'Kiss Day' to challenge moral policing in Kerala". The Indian Express. Indian Express Group. Retrieved November 1, 2014. 
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External links[edit]