The highly anticipated Kerala General Elections of 2024 culminated in a surprising turn of events, with a notably low voter turnout across the state. Despite the fervent campaigning by the political parties, the actual polling figures fell short of expectations, raising pertinent questions about the underlying dynamics and potential repercussions of this trend.

If we go by the historical voting patterns of parliamentary elections in Kerala, such trends can give tremors to the United Democratic Front (UDF) and solace to the Left Democratic Front (LDF) till the counting is done. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the evolving socio-political landscape of Kerala, which introduces a myriad of new variables that demand careful consideration. They are given below:

  1. Shift in demographics and political sentiments post-COVID

Has the landscape of Kerala politics undergone a transformation in post-COVID times? Are the migration plans of students seeking admission to foreign universities and the responses of their families indicative of underlying political dynamics? Whom do they blame for their potential grievances—the state or the central government? Are issues such as job opportunities, campus unrest, or distrust in government recruitment processes influencing their electoral choices, or is there an overarching sense of insecurity? These questions require careful examination.

  1. The ‘Modi Factor’ and Hindu Voter Loyalty

There is a change in the loyalty of the Hindu voters over time with the emergence of the ‘Modi factor’. Has the emergence of the ‘Modi factor’ impacted the traditional voting patterns of the Hindu Ezhava community, which historically accounted for 65 percent of the LDF votes? If so, to what extent are they now considering alternative options? Similarly, how far are the Nair community votes leaning towards the UDF or the BJP?

  1. Organisational Efficiency and Financial Constraints

How effective were the booth management strategies employed by the UDF with its limited financial resources? Did logistical challenges or financial constraints hinder their efforts to mobilise voters effectively?

  1. Minority Consolidation and Voter Turnout

Is the traditional trend of minority consolidation in favour of the UDF still prevalent? Or could external factors such as heat, dust and long queues have influenced voter patterns in many places? Could logistical challenges, such as voting on a Friday followed by a long weekend, have significantly affected voter turnout, particularly among the middle class and elderly? The rush in trains and on the roads on Thursday afternoon was an indicator that the political parties missed taking into account the logistical hurdles for voters.

  1. Changing Voter Characteristics

Changing patterns of voter characteristics could be another area that needs a deep dive. Though student politics is still very active on college campuses, changing middle class aspirations cast a shadow over conventional sloganeering and campaign issues. Of course, the young folks of Kerala are very concerned about the threats to democracy and secularism. However, one needs to investigate if their outlook on politics at the state and national levels is leading them to a totally different conclusion, including ‘not to vote?’. Is it confined to the young voters or is it affecting the middle class also? It is important to look more closely at whether rising urbanisation or media exposure is the cause of this growing trend in voter apathy. Was there any disinterest among the LDF voters for the anti-incumbency against the government, especially the disclosure of BJP- CPIM talks at the leadership level on the morning of the poll day?

  1. Voting Preferences of Women

What factors would have influenced women voters? There are studies showing that there is a ‘Modi Appeal’ among the female voters in Kerala. While there are traditional women voters who inherited the Congress legacy, those who inherited workers’ politics, and another section of minority women, can the Modi factor swing a percentage of these votes to the BJP?

Whatever the results may be, this election could provide strong pointers to the politics of Kerala in the coming years. There was a visible apathy towards the elections this time. At the same time, there was a general understanding that the voter percentage will be high in Kerala, even if it is not comparable to the last time. Many of the traditional understandings and entrenched beliefs could be challenged. A deeper understanding of the changing society is imperative for the political parties to adapt and evolve in shaping their future discourse.

(Dr D Dhanuraj is the Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Research)

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

Chairman at Centre for Public Policy Research

Dr Dhanuraj is the Chairman of CPPR. His core areas of expertise are in international relations, urbanisation, urban transport & infrastructure, education, health, livelihood, law, and election analysis. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @dhanuraj.

D Dhanuraj
D Dhanuraj
Dr Dhanuraj is the Chairman of CPPR. His core areas of expertise are in international relations, urbanisation, urban transport & infrastructure, education, health, livelihood, law, and election analysis. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @dhanuraj.

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