Massive shift of Nair, Ezhava vote base fuels saffron surge in Kerala

National election surveys (NESs) done by CSDS in the state from 2006 to 2019 show that Nair voters migrated to BJP, mainly from UDF.

Published: 20th March 2021 05:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2021 10:20 AM   |  A+A-

Kerala BJP State President K Surendran. (Photo | A Sanesh, EPS)

BJP state president K Surendran will be contesting in two constituencies - Manjeshwaram and Konni. (Photo | A Sanesh, EPS)

By Express News Service

KOCHI: The jump in BJP’s vote share in the state from 6% during the 2011 assembly elections to 15% in 2016 was largely due to the shifting of Nair and Ezhava votes, suggest election analyses done by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR).

National election surveys (NESs) done by CSDS in the state from 2006 to 2019 show that Nair voters migrated to BJP, mainly from UDF.

There was a sudden surge in the Ezhava vote base of BJP in 2016 which can be partly attributed to the work of its ally Bharat Dharma Jana Sena which was established in late 2015.

According to NES, 11% of Nair community members voted for BJP in 2006 and 2011. The figure shows a three-fold increase in 2016 when BJP polled 33% of Nair votes.

The gain of BJP was the loss of UDF whose Nair vote-share dipped from 43% in 2011 to 20% in 2016.

UDF had polled 38% Nair votes in 2006. Interestingly, LDF gained marginally among Nair voters last time as its vote share was 45% in 2016 against 44% in 2011.

“One of the reasons for the shift of upper class Hindu voters to BJP is the Modi factor. In 2014, there was a whirlwind campaign nationally launching Narendra Modi as PM. It had a ripple effect in Kerala too,” said political scientist K M Sajad Ibrahim who was the principal investigator of CSDS’s NES in Kerala.

“During the 2011 government, there were many controversies like fifth minister for Muslim League and the alleged axis of Oommen Chandy, K M Mani and P K Kunhalikutty controlling the state’s administration. That too seemed to have contributed to the shift of Hindu votes,” he said.

The shift of Nair votes was more visible and dominant in 2019 Lok Sabha elections when the Sabarimala issue was the major poll plank.

BJP polled 43% of Nair votes in the elections, finds NES, while UDF’s share was 35%, slightly higher than the 34% it polled in the 2014 LS elections.

The real loss was that of LDF’s as it could poll only 22% of Nair votes against 30% in 2014.

Almost similar is the case with the Ezhava voter. BJP’s vote share among Ezhava community was 6% in 2006 and 7% in 2011.

However, it touched 17% in 2016, finds NES. The loss here was that of LDF. Ezhava community members have been a traditional votebank of LDF which got 64% and 65% of votes of the community in 2006 and 2011, respectively. 

However, the Ezhava vote share of LDF sharply decreased to 49% in 2016.

“The alleged ‘minority appeasement’ of UDF was a rallying point for BJP, which tried to consolidate Hindu votes by combining the Nair, Ezhava, Brahmin and SC electorate. BJP is allied with BDJS, a party formed in late 2015 by the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, an Ezhava organization,” notes the ‘Analysis of the Kerala Assembly Election 2016’ by CPPR. 

The CPPR study also finds that arguments such as Hindu community is ignored by mainstream political parties and that having governments with similar ideologies in the state and Centre is ideal for Kerala’s growth prompted many Hindus to vote for NDA in 2016.


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