Nairs and Ezhavas, two major communities in Kerala formally decided to unite on issues affecting both communities and work for a broader Hindu unity in Kerala in June 2012 after many previous aborted efforts. Political parties like CPI (M), Congress and Muslim League have become wary after this new move and they have openly expressed their uneasiness at this development. Clearly this means the unity has the potential to change Kerala politics. But when is it going to change Kerala politics and how? Moreover which party will benefit from this and which party will lose?
Demographical significance of the unity
Nairs and Ezhavas together constitute around 35 per cent of the state population and nearly 80 per cent of Hindu population in Kerala. So even if a 10 per cent of total membership of NSS and SNDP votes according to orders of NSS and SNDP leadership it will swing election results in nearly 80 per cent of assembly constituencies in the state. So definitely the unity has significance. Now Nairs and Ezhavas are spread across the state which means election results of constituencies where Congress, Kerala Congress (Mani) and CPI and CPI (M) are influential will be altered. Such constituencies are in all districts of Kerala except Malappuram. Winning chances of Muslim League in a large number of constituencies won’t be affected as Muslims are mostly concentrated in a few constituencies where they form more than 50 per cent of population. However ML’s candidates from those constituencies where Muslims do not constitute that majority will be affected.
In the traditional voting pattern which was evident till early 90s majority of Nairs in Central and South Kerala usually voted for Congress while lower classes among Ezhavas used to support Left parties, especially CPM and CPI throughout Kerala. The upper middle classes and upper classes among Ezhavas used to support Congress mainly. In South Kerala, especially in Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts upper caste Christians and Nairs used to vote together and Kerala Congress (Mani) group which is a Christian majority party used to benefit. They used to some positions to their Nair leaders also including minister post at times. In all the constituencies where Kerala Congress wins Ezhavas also have significant population and if Nairs and Ezhavas unite and decide to vote against Kerala Congress it will have little hope.
So it seems all parties except Muslim League will be directly affected by Nair-Ezhava unity if it really translates to unity in voting at least among a minority of both communities.
How Congress, Kerala Congress (Mani) and CPI and CPI (M) going to tackle new development
First option for political parties will be to break the unity at state level or regional levels. For this political parties may exploit weaknesses against NSS and SNDP leadership either by offering the freebies or threatening them. There are many allegations against leaderships of NSS and SNDP and some of them have even cases against them in different issues. NSS and SNDP run many institutions and including educational institutions and hospitals. They need active support of authorities to run these hassle free. Threat of action against leadership may work in certain conditions and will force some community leaders to make secret support to individual leaders. Many local level leaders of NSS and SNDP are people with diverse interests and are susceptible to influences.
Some of the state level leaders of CPM and Congress have good individual relations with NSS and SNDP leadership. They are bound to get support of these organizations on individual basis even if Congress or CPM don’t get support.
BJP’s prospects and Nair-Ezhava unity
Though Nair-Ezhava (NSS and SNDP) leaders speak of Hindu unity in Kerala it is unlikely that Hindu unity will directly translate to victory of BJP. The reason is BJP leaders in Kerala from Nair and Ezhava community do not command a large support base in own communities which they can bring for BJP. In other words BJP does not have many leaders with mass base here. They don’t bring votes to party; they get only votes of those who are committed to Hindutva ideology.
However Nair-Ezhava unity will indirectly create an atmosphere in Kerala for popularizing Hindutva ideology and that will benefit BJP. The growing fear of extremism and terrorism among Nairs and Ezhavas and growing influence of Muslim community economically and socially in Kerala have created insecurity feeling among Nairs and Ezhavas. This has already worked for the benefit of BJP and will deepen its influence in future. Another factor is rapid social changes in Kerala and affluence of minority is slowly making all Hindu castes forget their difference and come together. So this will also work to the benefit of BJP.
Will Christians eventually support Nair-Ezhava unity
Christian leadership may have apprehensions about Nair-Ezhava unity in the initial stages and they will wait to see how things will turn out. If they find that it has become a reality and cannot be broken they are likely to side with the new combination. Traditionally a significant section of upper caste Christians in Kerala are in harmony with Hindus and if united Nair-Ezhava community is willing to accommodate them, Christian leadership is likely to strike a harmony with them.
In several local bodies in south and central kerala BJP has won with support of Kerala Congress (Mani) and vice versa. This could happen in assembly and lok sabha election also. Once as NDA candidate PC Thomas won from Muvattupuzha Lok Sabha seat which has more than 30 per cent Christian votes. He defeated both UDF and LDF candidates then. It means with the right candidate, BJP can bring about a Hindu-Christian consolidation for its candidates at least in certain parts of Kerala.
Nair-Ezhava unity will help Nair and Ezhava leaders in both Congress and CPM to win election and claim their stakes in wake of increasing population of Muslims in Kerala. However rise of credible leaders in BJP who can influence masses will turn the tide and will pave way to rise of that party in Kerala.