Lok Sabha 2024: Shifting Sands in Kerala

Ahead of the general election, there are deep undercurrents that presage fundamental changes in political equations.

4 min read
Hindi Female

(This is the seventh in a series of insightful reports from the ground, titled The Race From India to Bharat. The author travels all across India as 960 million voters get ready to celebrate the largest festival of democracy in the world: the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. What do ordinary Indians think and feel about the past, present, and future of India? Are they convinced that the old fault lines are healing?)

(Read part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here, and part six here.)

There is a deep churn in Kerala society and politics that could have profound implications for the future even as the Congress-led alliance looks set to repeat its 2019 sweep in the state.

It took the author exactly one hour by car to travel from the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya in Palady to Saint Francis Church in Fort Kochi where Vasco Da Gama was buried after he died in 1524. It was early in the morning and the traffic had not yet started. Three days spent in God’s Own Country reinforced the belief that there is no other melting pot like India anywhere else in the world.


Across Kochi, one could see mosques, churches, and temples in close proximity. Something similar could be seen even in Thiruvanthanapuram. Within India, Kerala itself is unique in terms of the relatively peaceful coexistence of different faiths. Locals proudly point out how there have been no “communal” riots here since the Moplah uprising of 1923. No doubt, in nearby coastal Karnataka, hostilities between radical Hindu and Muslim outfits are distressingly frequent. Not in God’s Own Country. Or, not yet.

Underneath the surface of this stability, there are political contestations between the Congress-led UDF (United Democratic Front) and the CPI(M)-led LDF [Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Left Democratic Front], with the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) being a marginal third player, there are deep undercurrents that presage fundamental changes in political equations.

Traditional alliances and relationships are breaking down or shifting shape, and new vote banks are being sought with ferocity. Jyothi Kumar is a senior journalist based in Thrissur and enjoys delving into data to analyse political trends in his state and around the world. He largely agrees with the opinion polls conducted by C Voter and other credible agencies that suggest yet another sweep for the UDF in Kerala in 2024. But he has identified a change that will have future implications.

According to him, the Congress ally, the IUML (Indian Union Muslim League) faces an unprecedented and existential threat. That doesn’t come from radicalised elements of the now-banned PFI (Popular Front of India). The threat comes from Pinarayi Vijayan, the CPM chief minister who is now bigger than his party.

It seems the CPM under him is leaving no stone unturned in wooing Muslim voters who have traditionally voted for the UDF. Every possible trick in the trade is being tried. Policy and executive decisions are being taken to explicitly signal that the CPM is the primary well-wisher and benefactor of the Muslim community. Targeting Governor Arif Mohammed Khan is part of this strategy, it seems.

That leaves the IUML fighting a rearguard battle to protect its core vote bank. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the IUML contested and won two seats comfortably, besides helping Rahul Gandhi triumph in Wayanad. On its own, it managed a 5.5 per cent vote share in the state. How does it maintain the status quo?


The Christians too are a tad bewildered. Back in 1957, when the undivided CPI became the first communist party in the world to win a full-fledged democratic election, it faced unrelenting hostility from the church leaders. There is little doubt that it was because of the unrelenting pressure from this lobby that Indira Gandhi as Congress president persuaded then PM Jawaharlal Nehru to dismiss the communist government. The Christian community and the Congress have lived together for decades since then. But again, some undercurrents presage change.

According to many Christian community leaders, the Congress is identifying too closely now with the so-called “Muslim” causes. Where do they go if Congress is not supportive of the core issues of the Christian community?

The BJP is making serious attempts to woo them as well. Some in the Sangh Parivar say that if the BJP can get the votes of Christians in the northeast and Goa, then why not in Kerala? In January 2024, a veteran Kerala leader joined the BJP and predicted that his party would win five seats in the state. BJP leaders used this to claim how the minority communities are now coming to the party's fold.

Jyothi Kumar agrees that there is a churn within the Christian community in Kerala. He thinks he is, for the first time, seeing a loss of trust between Christians and Muslims, and that an increasingly large number within both communities is giving up on Congress as the party to vote for. Since there is not much chance of them opting for the CPM, the BJP becomes an option.

But he also says that the BJP has so far failed to capitalise on this at the grassroots level and translate incipient support to potential votes. But all bets could be off in future elections as the politics, even in a state like Kerala, gets increasingly polarised.

While clicking pictures and making videos of the Saint Francis Church at Fort Kochi, the author was glad to meet Rajesh one more time. Rajesh is a guide who helped the author “discover” Fort Kochi during a holiday last December. After a few words, the author did ask Rajesh about politics. “I don’t know. All I know is that people are becoming so intolerant and angry. It’s not good”, he says.

Amen to that.

(Sutanu Guru is the Executive Director of the CVoter Foundation. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  2024 elections 

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