A positive turning point in Kerala politics

Organisations and parties which used obscurantism as a tool to divide society get a drubbing in the polls.

The landslide victory of V.K. Prashanth in Vattiyoorkkavu offers some delicate lessons for all the active players in this election, particularly the caste organisations.

True, parties do consider caste and religious affiliations while selecting candidates to win elections. But no society which has covered a distance on the path of reformation can afford to allow one caste or religion to dominate others. Society is aware of the toxic side-effects of caste calculations even though political parties do not often acknowledge them. The voters of Vattiyoorkavu have now spoken out, asking for the dismantling of this troubled system.

The people of Vattiyoorkavu have rejected the open campaign by a caste organisation for a candidate even though people of that caste have a considerable presence in the constituency. There was a free call to vote against the CPM candidate, who is also the mayor of the capital city, and the only reason one could conjure up for its crass interference in electoral politics was that Mr he belonged to another caste.

The massive majority of Mr Prasanth that surpassed even the expectations of his supporters proves that the people, cutting across caste and religious divisions, have chosen him despite the vicious propaganda. His track record as a friendly mayor people can directly approach, and his proactive relief efforts during the floods, have made the charismatic leader immensely popular. The voters have opted for a deserving candidate based on his service to the people, rather than caste or religious considerations. This is a decisive turning point in Kerala politics, nay, a return to positive politics, that could take us beyond the dangerous obsession with caste.

The success of the LDF in Konni is also significant. The Left has captured the seat from the UDF after 23 years, pushing the BJP to the third place there, in spite of a communal and misogynist campaign in the name of Sabarimala and some "custom" introduced in the late '50s.

The results of Vattiyoorkavu and Konni are a setback for the Congress, too. The party had compromised its positions with conservative forces and endorsed religious obscurantism to polarise people on communal lines on the Sabarimala matter. In Ernakulam, the UDF win is not enough reason for them to celebrate either.

The argument that Kerala's people, even women, were against the Supreme Court verdict that allowed the entry of women of the reproductive age in the Sabarimala temple stands comprehensively debunked now. If people were angry with the LDF over the hyped-up Sabarimala issue, its candidate would not have won with a significant margin in Konni that falls in the Pathanamthitta district where the temple is located. The BJP came tantalisingly close to victory in Manjeswaram in 2016 but has lost this time by a massive margin. In Vattiyoorkavu, BJP has been relegated to the third position from the second place secured in the 2016 assembly election. Remember, the capital city had seen many an agitation, some even violent, in the name of protecting the customs in Sabarimala.
What more evidence do we need to realise that people have rejected the Sangh Parivar campaign on Sabarimala?

The LDF's loss in Aroor is indeed disappointing since it had been holding the seat for more than a decade. But I am glad to see Shanimol Usman, who has always fought hard for claiming a space for women in a male-dominated patriarchal party like the Congress, winning. Her victory can be an inspiration for Muslim women, whose political participation has been nominal for long.

These byelection results are also a lesson for those who indulge in selfish agendas and group games within political parties. People are starting to get fed up with such farcical 'politricks.'

I feel that we are witnessing the emergence of a political culture that is different from conventional politics we have known till now. A culture which forces parties to pick candidates based on their merit. If it does emerge, then it's a reason for every right-thinking person to celebrate.

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