Date & Time: 17th December, 2020 at 06:030 PM IST

Venue: Zoom Online Meeting Platform

Host : Goutham KA

Panellists: Prof. Dr G Gopa Kumar, Prof. KC Abraham, Dr D Dhanuraj

Proceedings Report

About the Event: The Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) organised a virtual panel discussion on the results of the elections to the Local Self Government (LSG) institutions in Kerala that was held from the 8th to the 14th of December this year. The panel discussion focused on analysing the winning of the Left government, the reasons behind the loss of Congress led United Democartic Front (UDF), the role of mainstream Media in the elections and the increase in communal politics in the State among others. 

The Panellists: 

  • Prof. Dr G Gopa Kumar, Former Vice Chancellor of Central University of Kerala; Political Analyst; and Advisor, CPPR, Kochi
  • Prof. KC Abraham, Advisor & Academic Director, CPPR, Kochi
  • Dr D Dhanuraj, Chairman, CPPR, Kochi
  • Goutham KA, Project Associate, CPPR, Kochi.

Panel Discussion Summary

  1. The topic for the panel discussion was ‘Post Poll Analysis of the Kerala Local Body Elections.’ 
  1. The discussion began with the panelist expressing their views on the results of the Local Body elections in Kerala. Dr Gopa Kumar explained how, though a possibility of the Left government winning the elections was highlighted in the last discussion, such a sweeping win for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) alliance, amid the controversies and allegations propagated by the Opposition and the media, was not expected. 
  2. Prof. Abraham added that this reflected on the change in attitude among the voters, where a priority is given for the work the Government has done during crises more than allegations of corruption. Moreover, the win of Left in strong Christian belts like Kottayam and Idukki, due to the influence of the Kerala Congress is a phenomenon that must be closely studied. All the panelist agreed on the how it was the lack of proper leadership and discipline that led to the loss of the Opposition despite the anti-incumbency tendencies of the people in elections
  3. The failure of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to gain the votes that it had expected was also discussed as an analysis on the election results. Dr Gopa Kumar explained that though BJP could not gain votes  like it had expected, any increase in the number of votes for the alliance is victory in itself. This becomes relevant as the vote share BJP was limited in the State and could not have an impact unless a specific religion or at least caste decides to support the party unconditionally. 
  4. The overdependence of United Democratic Front (UDF) on the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) for support and the increasing communal influence on the alliance in the form of radical religious parties were some of the other points that were briefly mentioned.
  5. One theme that ran across the discussion was the importance of leadership among the alliance. Discussing the future strategies of each political alliance in the State, Dr Gopa Kumar explained how since the Left had emerged strong in the election, they had gained an advantage in the coming Assembly elections. This being said, the need of the hour was to keep up the momentum that it presently has and to consolidate the 11 alliance partners of LDF. Comparing former Chief Minister K. Karunakaran with Pinarayi Vjayan, Prof. Abraham explained how it was strong leadership that has led to this victory. Adding to this Dr Dhanuraj pointed out that similar to Modi, this election had a Chief Minister versus the Opposition format and that it was the lack of a charismatic leadership from the side of Congress which adversely affected their image among the common man.
  6. Dr Gopa Kumar explained how Congress-led-UDF still had a strong base in the State. It is the weak structure and lack of leadership that will put them at a disadvantage at the Assembly elections. This being said, the change in leadership in Congress is highly unlikely and practically impossible at this point.
  7. Other topics that entered the elections included the winning of Twenty 20 candidates and how it was the District elections among the Local body elections that reflected the political stance of the general public. While Dr Gopa Kumar and Prof. Abraham were of the opinion that it was in the District elections where the voter became highly political, Dr Dhanuraj explained how recent studies also show how more people have become reluctant in voting for the District elections.  
  8.  Before ending the discussion, the panelist analysed the role Media played in influencing the results of the elections. Dr Gopa Kumar explained how the people have lost faith in the  Mainstream media as they represent biased opinions as objective truth without any sort of fact checking. Dr Abraham added that media discussion included theatrics and drama where instead of inviting political experts, it was politicians with crass language who were invited. Moreover, social media has emerged strong in tackling the mainstream media. Dr Dhanuraj explained how the regular Chief Minister’s Press Conference with the coming of the pandemic has helped the Government in gaining popularity among the common man. Thus, such factors played a very important role in the elections.
  9. As a concluding remark, Dr Gopa Kumar explained how though the Left Government seems to have a clear advantage in the upcoming Assembly elections, it will be the issues that happen in the next few months that will decide the future of all the alliances. 

This report was prepared by Rebecca Rose Varghese, Research Intern, Election Studies, CPPR.

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