BJP has achieved support from Pulaya community by consistently working with the Pulayar Mahasabha during the past year.

BJP has a grand Hindu alliance planned for Kerala too many thorns in the way
news Saturday, October 10, 2015 - 16:14

BJP’s attempt at cobbling together a broad Hindu alliance for the 2016 Assembly elections has upset traditional political and caste formations in Kerala, and has forced social and political groups to either take sides or declare their political neutrality. The resulting political tumult has raised speculation on how the BJP’s traditional strategy of creating a Hindu vote bank will play out.

Kerala’s voters, cutting across religious and caste lines, are more or less evenly divided between the state’s major political formations – the United Democratic Front headed by the Congress and the Left Democratic Front headed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

The population of Kerala comprises around 27 percent Muslims and 18 percent Christians. While forward classes like Nairs, Namboodiris. Nambiars and Warriers constitute around 23 percent of Hindus in the state, Backward Castes like Ezhavas (also sometimes called Thiyyas) form a little larger chunk.

Apparently having considered this, the BJP hopes to create a voting block comprising the Ezhavas (backward caste), Namboodiris (upper caste Brahmins), Nairs (Upper castes) and Pulayas (Scheduled Caste), but so far, the results have been mixed. The Pulaya community though appears to be in favour of the party, a feat the BJP has achieved by consistently working with the Pulayar Mahasabha during the past year.

Ezhavas

The Ezhava community is the one to watch out for. During the past year, senior BJP leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to BJP president Amit Shah have been flirting with Vellapally Natesan, but neither side is openly commiting to an alliance.

Natesan heads the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), which is one of the two most powerful associations representing Ezhavas. The other is the Sree Narayana Guru Trust, which wants nothing to do with political parties.

BJP leaders have held several rounds of talks with Natesan who has been seen publicly with them and has also invited VHP members as the SNDP’s guests during its events. However, Natesan has declined to swing either way for now. “Our community's interest is our priority, we can form alliance with any party who protects our interest,” he has said. 

Although the BJP too has refrained from making a statement on an alliance with the SNDP (except supporting SNDP in local body polls to be held in November, 2015), it hopes to reap dividends through its association with Natesan.

Ezhavas form a significant chunk of both the Congress and the CPI(M)’s voters, although they tend to lean towards the left more. Both parties have had a chief minister from the community.

Another equation within this is the Thiyya community, which has distanced itself from the Ezhavas.

The BJP has its eye on the Thiyya community, which is geographically concentrated in northern Kerala and hence has the power to swing votes in favour of a particular party in that region. Although considered to be equal to the Ezhavas in the caste hierarchy, the Thiyyas have not only refused to be part of the BJP’s proposed Hindu voting block, but have also distanced themselves from the Ezhava community, with whom they have a tenuous relationship.

Nairs

The largest and most powerful body of the Nair community, the Nair Service Society, is also not keen on aligning with any political party. General Secretary G Sukumaran Nair told The News Minute that the outfit he heads has no political ambitions and will not be part of a broad Hindu alliance.

“Our community and nation should develop by ensuring secularism and democracy. That is the NSS’s century-old motto. Like in any other religion, in Hinduism also its members’ needs should be protected. For that, a broad alliance is not needed.”

Claiming to have always protected the interests of Hindus, Nair added that the “broad Hindu alliance doesn’t suit the ethics of NSS”. He also suggested that the leaders who seek such an alliance do not understand the real problems of Hindus.   

Advocate and political observer Jayasankar says that a clear prediction on the BJP’s strategy was impossible at this juncture. “BJP wants to open its account in the state by pushing a Hindu identity. Now one of the major Hindu groups is inclined to them (SNDP). So only after elections will we get a clear idea of the future of the BJP in Kerala.”

Theyyam picture courtesy: Wikepedia Commons. പുള്ളിക്കരിങ്കാളി - ചെറിയ തമ്പുരാട്ടി തെയ്യം by  Mullookkaaran

 

 

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