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Voters reject caste games; no real win for fronts in bypolls
News analysis

Voters reject caste games; no real win for fronts in bypolls

Ajayan

It's literally a tale of tears under the guise of claiming victory for both the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) after the results to five Kerala Assembly by-elections were announced. As far as the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is concerned, it has proved that it is nowhere in Kerala's electoral scene.

Voters have won and taught  parties to think beyond caste equations and not go after community leaders.

The LDF has been waxing eloquent about the remarkable wins in Congress strongholds of Vattiyoorkavu and Konni seats and making tall claims of that being 'acknowledgment of Government policies'. But the fact remains that the slighting by the two Congress MPs, who represented the constituencies prior to their win in the May Lok Sabha poll, over failure to hoist candidates of their choice had a major role in Congress defeat.

This has already led to outbursts in the party and some of the front constituents like Muslim League have come out openly demanding that the Congress set its house in order.

Within the party, voices of dissent over sending the MLAs, three of them, to the Lok Sabha, without preparing a plan for the by-elections, was uncalled for. Like always, group interests weighed upon the leadership in selecting candidates.

The narrow win in Ernakulam for Congress is honestly no victory at all. While it can find solace in arguing that the heavy downpour that even inundated polling booths in some areas which resulted in low voter turnout dimmed its win, the fact remains that but for the LDF candidate's namesake getting over 2,500 votes and over 1,000 braving the inclement weather to reach the booths and vote for NOTA as a mark of protest, even the narrow victory margin of around 3,700 votes would not have been there.

As admitted by political pundits, the 1,000 and odd NOTA voters would certainly be of the Left-leaning politically conscious citizens who wanted to register their protest against the Left succumbing to community compulsions when selecting candidates.

For the LDF, the two wins are being highlighted to cover up for losing Aroor, that has over the last few decades never ever sent a non-Left to the Assembly.

Here, the CPM has itself to blame for letting free foot-in-mouth-stricken leaders whose harangue and comments against the UDF candidate did not go well with a good section of the voters whose level of sense and proprietary is certainly a class above. Trying to foist false cases against the candidate too did backfire. This resulted in a historical defeat and the party  certainly has to think whether it needs such crass leaders whose insensitivity can only damage it further.

There are bigger lessons that both fronts have to learn from the way the voters responded. They have sent out a clear message that  community organisations, be it the Nair Service Society or the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam or the Orthodox faction of the Church, stay outside the political sphere.

The NSS openly siding with the Congress candidates in Vattiyoorkavu and Konni and forming squads to campaign for them was rejected by the voters. SNDP's backing the CPM was not accepted in the Ezhava-dominated Aroor. The Orthodox faction siding with the BJP candidate in Konni did not help him come above the third position.

Putting someone from outside the Nair community that dominates in Vattiyoorkavu paid rich dividend for the CPM.

That voters have grown beyond community barriers needs to be accepted by political parties.

The Sabarimala verdict, which all fronts whipped up for immediate political gains, is a non-issue now as shown in the temple heartland of Konni where the leader of 'protest fame' was relegated to third spot.

Pressing issues of voters, be they economic or lack of development or unemployment, are vital and cannot be blinded by petty non-issues. The fronts have a lot to learn from the Kerala bypoll verdict.

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The facts and views in the article are that of the author