Elections in Kerala: An apolitical layman’s view

People take voting pretty seriously with a highest ever turnout of 77%

Elections to the state assemblies are happening today in the south Indian state of Kerala. Though I’m apolitical, a friend asked me to comment on the situation on an online forum as he felt the forum members were too scared to talk in public. Here are my views.

I think people don’t comment because it’s a waste of time, and not because they are scared to talk. The majority of Indian politicians are in it for the money. Quite a few are convicted murderers, rapists, and the like. So why would anyone want to waste even a minute of their time on them?

Before I proceed any further, I’d like to clarify something. I’m not into politics, don’t have my finger on the pulse of the people, and have not been following the current elections. So I’m not really qualified to comment, and my point of view is strictly that of an uninformed layman.

In short, I may be talking through my hat. But since I agreed to comment, let me do a dissection of the main players in the contest. I’ll keep it brief and dirty.

Historically, the two main political parties in Kerala have been the Congress and the Communists. But there are many smaller parties who are mainly breakaway factions from them, and also the Muslim League.

To form a government, the major parties need the support of the smaller ones, and generally make strategic tieups during elections to share seats, and avoid splitting their vote. So the elections becomes a straight contest between the two fronts, with the winning front sharing ministerial seats among the different partners of the front. In recent years, the BJP has started contesting the elections as a third front but though the BJP is now the ruling party of India, they haven’t had any success in Kerala so far.

Corruption is in their genes, and people join the party as it’s the best way to make loads of money with minimum effort. I think Nehru, our first Prime Minister, was singlehandedly responsible for derailing India’s progress for over half a century. He made the monumentally foolish to ‘protect’ India’s industries by isolating it from international competition, and gave the government monopoly over key industries. This stifled India’s growth for decades, and institutionalised corruption. Undoing it is a huge task that may take generations. I sometimes wonder what we Indians did to deserve the karma of having this idiot as our first PM. As for his heir apparent (his great grandson) in the party, let’s just say it’s all in the genes.

These guys are big in Kerala so I’ll take them next. Going with the genes analogy, these guys have violence in their genes. Think Stalin, Mao, Naxalites, etc. Back in college, I shared a room with a student communist party member. He was a soft spoken, decent young chap from a poor background, but a strong believer in the communist dogma. He informed me that revolution was the only way to spread wealth across all levels of society. All those who stood in the path of revolution would be forcibly put down. A couple of weeks later, another batchmate who was less than 5” tall was beaten up for opposing the Communists. The retaliation was swift and merciless, with the budding communists being severely thrashed and chased out of the college campus. As for my roommate, I ran to our room to try to warn him but I was too late. He ended up in hospital, and l lost touch with him. Enough said, keep these guys at a distance.

The Muslims seem to stand together and offer a huge vote bank. During the elections, they generally team up with either the Congress led front or Communist front, and so easily win the seats they contest. If the front they support wins a majority in the elections and forms a government, members of the Muslim League are rewarded with top ministerial positions, which they in turn use to uplift their community and region.

This Hindu party hasn’t had much success in Kerala, because the Hindus here traditionally vote on party lines, and not by religious persuasion.

I had high hopes from Modi when the BJP won the national elections with a huge majority. However, I have noticed an alarming trend of late. Modi has all the time to tweet congratulations to Indian sportsmen for doing well in a game. But he’s disturbingly silent on events of immense symbolic significance. Like when a Hindu author and professor is gunned down for speaking out against religious rituals. Or a Muslim man is lynched for supposedly eating beef. Or Christian churches are burned down for being allegedly involved in converting Hindus. To paraphrase Steve Waugh, “Mate, I think you just dropped India.”

So which way do I go? I’ll decide as soon as I’m put back on the electoral rolls, from which I was kicked out of during the years I was working outside India. Thank God for tender mercies!

I did take my mother to the polling booth to cast her vote. I think she voted for candidate whose personality impressed her, rather than their party. But I have no idea who will win the election. However if there are many more people like me who don’t vote, and the BJP can persuade them to vote, then this may be the year they get a few seats. But seeing the voter turnout was 74%, I think it’s going to be the same left, right, left, right, left…

Update: I was right about the left

it’s an odd world