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Political Parties In Kerala

Kerala is the geographical expression of three sub-regions, with somewhat different political history and culture: Travancore, Cochin and Malabar. The legacy and political style expressed by these units and inner political history added to the diverse political style of Kerala. Travancore was marred by political and communal rivalries and the interaction of State Congress with communal associations predominated the political scenario. Cochin was small in size and its contribution was also not conspicuous like that of Travancore. Malabar, as a province of the erstwhile Madras State, had problems as well as prospects. The tempo of the national movement was effective and the communist penetration in to the rural belt was very much successful. The emergences of Muslim League in Malabar are also a potent factor in state politics.


The sum total of these developments since independence was the steady decline of one-party government and the inevitability of coalition pattern of politics. The personal feuds, factional struggles, communalism within and outside the congress altogether brought the communist to power in 1957. Since then, party struggle underwent a metamorphosis with Congress or Communists as the main axis in state polity. The third force was the articulation of caste and interest groups under the garb of regional parties. As result, the two strong forces humbled to the regional parties and the political space left little scope for any substantial polarization.


Kerala pushed into the limelight, with the election of the communist party to power in 1957. Conversely, the vested interest groups pulled them successfully out of power by an unconstitutional procedure. The faction-ridden Congress could neither offer stability nor political alternative.


Violence is not feature of the political culture in Kerala unlike in West Bengal, Assam or Punjab. Except some minor incidents of RSS-Marxist clashes and communal riots, Kerala is comparatively peace minded. But the polity is ever sensitive with constant faction-struggles inside and outside the legislature. The major and minor communities alike have political arms. It is different question, how far these parties could mobilize their community. Interestingly, the Congress and Communist forces depend on them.


Indian National Congress


The legacy of the national movement, socialist appeals of the organizations, consistent support of the middle class and recruitment of working class, youth factor and other elements form the basic nature of this party. The INC (I) though formally launched on 1 January 1978, is the legal and political successor of the major Congress Party which survived after independence and the major rift in 1969. The appeals it carried underwent serious metamorphosis at various stages. Independence, the State Congress was an amalgamation of regional, communal interests and a sizeable set of freedom-loving nationalists. The post-independence period saw Congress moving further, untouched by Gandhian character. Personal feuds, regional and communal struggles and functional rivalries intensified during this period. With the split in 1969 the old guards were purged and the leadership gap was ably filled by youth element which brought a radical momentum in the Congress. Throughout these periods the Congress remained the centre of power struggle in state politics.


The post-1969 period saw Congress adopting cadre-party technique and the new leadership under A.K Antony and K.Karunakaran successfully challenging the major enemy, the CPI (M). The new Congress was mainly responsible for the Marxist wilderness during 1969-80 periods. Adopting the communist style of alienating the major force (which the Communists tried successfully in 1957, 1965 and 1967 elections) the Congress entered into working alliance with CPI and Muslim League. It carried and encouraged minor parties as well, with the result it could recapture the lost image in 1967 and the setback came only in 1978.


In the 1978 split, ideology had a secondary role than in 1969. The two powerful groups in the KPCC, the Antony faction and Karunakaran faction played cards well in the new split. The decline of Mrs. Gandhi’s image in the post-emergency wave accelerated the splitting process. While the powerful Antony group joined Congress (U), the Congress (I) in Kerala became the mainstay of Karunakaran faction. Between 1978 and 1980 the Congress (U) was wavering but the Congress (I) stickled to the traditional policy of challenging the Marxists.


The Congress had in the meantime split into two the INC (I) and the INC (U). Due to difference in the INC (U) again split to another groups Congress (S). Again it split into another faction INC (A) under the leadership of A.K Antony. The merger of the INC (I) and the INC (A) and of two factions of the happen in middle eighties then Congress (I) won 1991 Assembly election. K.Karunakaran again became Chief Minister of Kerala. Due to “Pam oil” case K.Karunakaran resigned from the CM post, Antony Became C.M of Kerala. This power exchange also transfered the power structure and Leadership of Congress under the Control of Antony group. This intensified the growth of Group politics in INC (I), these groups are (A) and (I) group. First one under the control of A.K Antony, later under the control of K.Karunakaran. Congress party face another split under the leadership K.Karunakaran he formed new party it named “Democratic Indira Congress (K)”. DIC (K) didn’t create any impact in Kerala Politics, later they came back to Congress. In the 2011 Assembly election Oommen Chandy Became the Chief Minister of Kerala.


It is a centrist party without committing either to left or right, although it has an appeasing tendency which recruited large number of middle class. Its faith in peace, democracy, secularism, liberalism and parliamentary democracy elevates the party’s position to a national structure with a secular and socialist image. At the same time it reinforced its traditions among the socio-religious sections of the society. Therefore the Congress appeals to the majority middle class. It made traditional inroads among the Christian and Nair Muslim support. It wins some sections of labour sector and scheduled caste and some Ezhava support. Thus, the Congress in total represents a cross-section of the Kerala society


Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Communist Party of India (Marxist) is undoubtedly the biggest party in Kerala. It has a disciplined cadre, consistent leadership and popular appeal. But that provided the major source of its strength and weakness when the Congress and other parties adopted a pragmatic coalition strategy to put the CPI (M) in political wilderness during 1969-79 and since 1981. CPI (M) literally believes in socialism and communism through the establishment of the state of the dictatorship of proletariat. The social base of the party are the poor peasants of the lower middle class, agricultural workers, organized labourers and the hard core of the NGOs in state service. Besides, it carries the majority of the poor Ezhavas and harijans and the minority of Muslim, Christian and Nairs. Since its origin in 1964, it emerged as the major Communist Party and in certain times out shadowed the rival CPI. Unlike the Congress, it was free from loose defections and floor-crossings except on solid grounds. The revolutionary image it built up with the Punnapra Vayalar and Kayyur incidents and the recruitment of educated youth, poor peasants and agricultural workers made it a tremendous force in Kerala. It was particularly strong in the rural areas of Travancore and Malabar, and in industrial areas it built up strong trade-union network. The anti-Congress wave, in addition, was crucial to its victory in 1957.


The spilt in the party after the Chinese attack made the CPI favourable to the Soviet Union, whereas the rebel group organized the powerful CPI (M). The leaders in the undivided party, particularly Dange, Rajeswara Rao and M.N Govindan Nair, stood with the official group. The rebels led by E.M.S Nambooripad, A.K Gopalan and others organized the CPI (M) and carried the wind their favour.


The CPI (M) initially chalked out a two-fold strategy to defeat the Congress and expose the weakness of CPI in Kerala. It succeeded in both in the 1965 midterm elections, and the Marxists became the biggest party in Kerala. The big-brother attitude of the CPI (M) estranged the fellow- partners and splinter Marxist group let loose a reign of terror in various places of the state.


Still the CPI (M) is very powerful in many respects. Its popular base does not show any considerable decline, although not in terms of seats captured in the Assembly.


A clear polarization of leftist forces is difficult under Kerala conditions. Yet the CPI(M) can bring together like minded parties such as the CPI and left parties. Coalitionism in Kerala is not streamlined on ideological or similar economic-political interests. The immediate concern was power and to defeat the majority enemy. The main agenda behind L.D.F is to defeat the Congress or U.D.F .


Communist Party of India


CPI is a leftist-socialist group. After the major split in the undivided Communist Party, the party CPI was initially humbled to a minor party. The credibility it consolidated in the post1967 period by allying with the Congress initially and with the Marxists later made it another bargaining force in the state politics. CPI-Congress relation in the 1970-77 periods became slightly controversial. Backed by the international relations and diplomacy between Moscow and Delhi. The CPI hailed the Bank nationalisation, abolition of privy purses etc. The CPI leader C. Achutha Menon successfully piloted the first government in Kerala to serve for a full tenure. The Congress backing was consistent and CPI (M) was isolated during these periods. The breakdown of “emergency caucus” confused the CPI, which hailed the imposition of internal – emergency in 1975. The role of CPI became controversial while Mrs.Gandhi’s image during this period was on the decline. As a result, the CPI had to break up relations with the Congress and subsequently joined the Marxist-led LDF. Presently, the CPI concentrates on aggregating the energies of the LDF to alienate the main enemy, the Congress (I).


Bharathiya Janatha Party


It is only since the 1980s that Hindu political groups have made a serious attempt to participate in the political process. Both the Hindu Munnani and the Bharatiya Janata Party, in spite of their limited presence, have added a new dimension to politics in Kerala. Their growth has taken place in the context of various allied organisations that have been operating in the state for some time.


In the 1980s there has been a silent and widespread expansion of politics and related activity that draw their basis from exclusivist categories and identities. This is not only true of the nation as a whole, but also of Kerala. The growth of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Kerala is such a development.


Through the early 1980s, the series of clashes between RSS and communist cadres cost the state much in terms of peace and harmony. With the CPM coming to power in 1980, the incidents of violence increased. The clashes now spread from Cannanore to other parts of Kerala as well. Another group of Sangh Parivar is VHP. Vishwa Hindu Parishad was started in Kerala in 1964, when launched it was hoped that it would provide a common platform for all sections of Hindus to come together. It was hoped that the major caste organisations of the Ezhavas and the Nairs, the SNDP and the NSS would come together. Although this has not happened.


RSS in Kerala has adopted a new policy of building a united Hindu front, leading to the creation of a Hindu vote bank. This it said, was not only to safeguard Hindu interests, but also to fight the forces of minority communalism, as represented by the accommodation of the demands of the Muslim League and Kerala Congress, by both the UDF and the LDF. The widespread disenchantment with Kerala's front politics and its accompanying brand of political opportunism, are sufficient reasons for the BJP to attempt an entry into the political scene. However, the BJP is conscious of its limitations in Kerala, given the reality of front politics which makes it difficult for any party not aligned with either bloc.


Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)


It is recognized by the Election Commission of India as a State Party in Kerala. Though Indian Union Muslim League is a Muslim-community-oriented party, it decided to retain its allegiance to India after independence, when the original Muslim League of undivided India went to Pakistan. The party has a stronghold in northern Kerala. They form the second largest party within the present ruling coalition United Democratic Front (UDF). The Indian Union Muslim League was formed in Madras on 10 March 1948. It had presence in the Parliament right from 1952 to present day. In Kerala, it has led the cabinet once under the late C. H. Mohammed Koya, who became the Chief Minister of Kerala in 1979. In alliance with Indian National Congress and other parties, Muslim League has been an active member of the United Democratic Front. The party participated in the ouster of the first Communist Party of India (CPI) government in Kerala in 1959. In 1960, the party took part in the formation of a coalition government in the state, consisting of the Indian National Congress, Praja Socialist Party and IUML. A break-away faction, the All India Muslim League joined LDF and the Indian Union Muslim League joined UDF. Muslim League is among the few Muslim organizations that maintains consistent presence in the Indian Parliament.


Kerala Congress (M)


The Kerala Congress a regional political party in the state of Kerala. The mass base of the party predominantly consists of Christians from Kottayam and Idukki districts of Kerala. Presently, the Kerala Congress (M) is the third largest party after the Congress and IUML, in the alliance of United Democratic Front (UDF). The party has its roots in the erstwhile Travancore region and is traditionally dominated by the farmers, mostly Syrian Christian. The Kerala Congress has suffered severe divisions and several factions (called groups) have emerged, all claiming the name 'Kerala Congress' in various times in its history. Factions included the parent under P. J. Joseph, Kerala Congress (Mani) under K. M. Mani, Kerala Congress (Balakrishna Pillai) under R. Balakrishna Pillai, and Kerala Congress (Jacob) under Johnny Nellore. The group that had retained the official recognition by the Election Commission of India to the name 'Kerala Congress' was the one led by P. J. Joseph (which is informally called the Joseph group) until 2010.

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