The results from the bypolls in Kerala's five assembly constituencies have once again displayed Kerala's political literacy. There is nothing in it for LDF to be jubilant about, or for UDF to despair. If there is any side summarily rejected by the electorate, it is BJP alone. And that is just a continuation of the political approach taken by the state hitherto. In the elections held after the recent Pala bypoll that went in favour of UDF, convincing wins in two Congress strongholds should be a moral booster for LDF.
The ruling front has also been able to muster the strength with which it can face the upcoming local bodies election with greater courage and confidence, at the same time as it recovered from the shock of its debacle in the last Lok Sabha election. As for the Congress, the result certainly warrants some serious retrospections. The victory in Aroor, impressive as it is, cannot hide the loss of two sure seats. Its defeat in Konni and Vattiyurkavu goes to prove that the front has not learned any particular lesson from the recent loss of Pala constituency. That said, if the LDF treats the result as a sign of popular acceptance of its rule, that will be stretching a claim too far. In addition, its defeat in the sitting seat of Aroor will have to be seen as a rejection of the government too. It is worth noting that Shanimol Usman, who won the Aroor seat, did garner more votes in the constituency than she did in the assembly segment of the constituency in the last Lok Sabha election.
As a matter of fact, what was heard loud and clear during the build-up to the election was neither any assessment of the state government or its development activities, but an odious narrative of caste polarisatrion. Ipso facto, the one factor that took the worst beating in this bypoll, was the high-caste politics of NSS put forward by its leader Sukumaran Nair. In the name of Sabarimala and betrayal of the community, he came out openly against the Left Front with his theory of 'right distance' and sent circulars to the units (karayogam) of the organisation. Pouncing on the opportunity, SNDP Yogam General Secretary Vellappally Natesan entered the fray as a saviour of the Left.
The communally polarising scenario got degraded to such an extent as to prompt the Chief Election Officer to issue warnings to political parties as well as to community leaders. And it was that brand of politics which the enlightened voters of Kerala have now thrown overboard. Thus the voters in Vattiyurkavu, Konni, Aroor and Manjeswaram proved once again that the voters of Kerala are not in the pockets of a few community overlords. The defeat of the Congress in two otherwise sure constitutencies, was a price paid for its failure to recognize this fact in time. As for the result in Ernakulam, where polling was affected by heavy rain, it would better be left as something natural.
The jolt suffered by BJP with its communal politics has thrown that party into a deep internal crisis. In four of the five constituencies, it has won fewer votes than last time. Even in Manjeswar, where it finished second, the increase in votes is just 348. In Kooni and Vattiyurkavu where it had hopes of winning, it is difficult to recover from its fall. In Vattiyurkav, where Kummanam Rajasekharan had secured 43,700 votes in 2016 assembly election and 50,709 votes in the last Lok Sabha election, this time the BJP candidate S Suresh secured just 27,453 votes. In Aroor, BDJS candidate Aniyappan had won 37,753 votes in 2016 assembly polls. But this time, Prakash Babu could muster only 16,215 votes. Neither the fielding of K Surendran in Konni nor the raking of Sabarimala issue resulted in any better showing by BJP. The ill-concealed high-caste political ploy used by NSS resulted in consolidating the votes of other backward castes towards the Left front, taking them away from Congress and BJP. And that also played a role in frustrating BJP's political ambitions.
This election gives an insight to both LDF and UDF alike about the meaninglessness of relying excessively on community groupings in the march to power. The manner in which political leaderships should interact with community outfits is not in the idiom of appeasement or rejection, but through granting their rights and fair share of power. The people do keenly watch the merits and failings in governance. And Kerala's voters are not so blind that any government can hide failings in governance behind community and caste equations. Voters observe and assess political parties, and at the most opportune moment they correct politicians too.
The one result that will convince anyone that Kerala's voters, especially the youth, are no 'Yo Yo' boys and that they do rigorously observe politicians and exercise their franchise clearly, is from Vattiyurkav where LDF captured the seat through 'Mayor Bro', despite its having finished third the last three times consecutively. All put together, the voters have through the five bypolls, made it clear beyond any doubt that the upcoming assembly and local bodies elections will belong to those who most efficiently reset their political agenda.