Kerala bypoll analysis | CPM does a 'back from dead' miracle in Vattiyoorkavu


The CPM's bold gamble in Vattiyoorkavu has paid off, and how. It had put up an Ezhava candidate in a Nair-dominated constituency where even the CPM had dared to do so only once, and that too nearly four decades before.

On the face of it, the CPM could not have chosen more wrongly. Vattiyoorkavu not only has a high concentration of Nairs, it also has the most influential 'karayogams'. Informal data collected by all major parties show that over 45-50 per cent voters in Vattiyoorkavu are Nairs.

The Ezhava community, on which the LDF has traditionally banked on, is not even the second most dominant group in the constituency. Christians, a traditional UDF ally, have larger numbers.

Shocking the CPM camp, bang in the middle of the campaign the NSS 'karayogams' within the constituency took the hitherto unheard of decision to form squads to work for the Congress candidate. If Vattiyoorkavu is supposed to be the place where Nairs are most obsessive about their caste identities, Prasanth should have conceded the battle long before.

Instead, the young CPM candidate has won by a stunning margin, nearly as impressive as K Muraleedharan's landslide win against Cheriyan Philip in 2011.

V K Prasanth

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He swept not just Ezhava or Christian pockets but also Nair-dominated areas in the constituency like Pattom, P T P Nagar, Kodunganoor, Vattiyoorkavu and Thruthummmola. He virtually led in all major wards in Vattiyoorkau.

Prasanth's performance as Mayor has clearly played a big role in his win. The members of the highly influential Federation of Residents' Association (FRAT) were especially enthusiastic about Prasanth. “The younger generation doesn't think along caste, class or party lines. They had seen the leadership role played by Prasanth during flood relief and will vouch for him. They can even convince their parents to vote for the Mayor,” advocate Paraniyam Devakumar, the patron of FRAT, had told Onmanorama.

It was as if even the UDF had acknowledged Prasanth's success as Mayor. K Mohan Kumar's election pamphlet, for instance, did not have a word against Prasanth.

It looked as if the UDF would go for the kill when the Pollution Control Board, this too in the middle of the campaign, censured the corporation for not complying with solid waste management rules. Perhaps sensing the public mood, the UDF did not milk it for political gains.

The Congress strategy was to do nothing that would earn Prasanth sympathy and expected that caste loyalty and traditional religious equations in the constituency will carry them through.

What happened instead was a huge counter consolidation against the NSS diktat to vote for the Congress. Ezhava and Christian voters were understandably irritated. But even independent Nair voters shifted with a vengeance to the LDF.

The result is a tight slap on the presumption that Nair votes could be remote-controlled. The massive mobilisation of Nair votes during the Sabarimala agitation was a major feat. But to expect Nairs to follow orders when there is no overriding concern that can make them flock together, like say a threat to faith, was not just wrong but straight-out provocative.

The result has turned politics upside down in Vattiyoorkavu. The CPM that had slipped to a distant third spot since 2014, coinciding with the rise of Narendra Modi, has made a dramatic resurgence.

As amazing as the CPM's 'back from the dead' miracle is the near decimation of the BJP. Vattiyoorkavu is where the RSS has its most number of 'shakhas' in the state. This is what had prompted BJP stalwarts from K G Marar to Kummanam to contest from the seat.

This time the BJP candidate S Suresh saw a drop of over 15,000 votes. If Kummanam Rajasekharan had secured 43,700 votes in 2016, Suresh has managed just 27,453, a deficit of 16,247 votes.

There were two reasons for the BJP no-show in Vattiyoorkavu. The primary reason was the indifference of the RSS, which felt snubbed after Kummanam Rajasekharan was pushed out to accommodate Suresh. The RSS refused to campaign and the BJP had to 'import' workers from neighbouring constituencies like Neyyatinkara and Nemom to campaign for Suresh.

Mayor V K Prasanth's presence has also swayed BJP families in the area. Traditional BJP voters find an average CPM candidate repelling. Not Prasanth. He was seen as someone who could think beyond party considerations.