Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan once again treated media persons like dregs. When a journalist asked him about the voter turnout in Wednesday's polling, the CM shouted him down saying 'keep away from here'. Why the CM was upset with a question on high voter turnout in Kerala is a no-brainer though.
For, the increased polling percentage is the crux of the post-poll analysis in Kerala now.
Kerala saw 77.68 percent voting, the highest in 30 years in the Lok Sabha elections. It was nearly 4 percentage points higher than the 2014 turnout of 74 percent. Historically, the Left Front Vijayan leads has suffered badly each time the voter turnout was higher than 75 percent.
A UDF upper hand in Kerala in this elections has been factored in, even by the CPI-M cadres. Realistically the party insiders don't hope to win the 2014 tally of eight seats. Winning as many would be a great win for CPI-M under the circumstances.
Therefore, the CM's angry reaction does signal that the prognosis is worse. For the Left, what's worse than a UDF landslide is the possibility of BJP winning a few seats in Kerala. The CPI-M kept the BJP at bay for long, paying a heavy price in the process. In 2014 LS elections, the Left front flipped its own cadre votes to the Congress candidate in Thiruvananthapuram in order to keep BJP out of the electoral sweepstakes in the state. That's a 'sacrifice' the Left has done many a time in the past.
The barrage breaching?
However, it looks like CPI-M and Pinarayi Vijayan fear that this barrage may have been breached this time. What does a BJP win in any of the Kerala seats mean? First and foremost, a BJP win will mean the rejection of the whole political argument the Left built up through the various phases of the Sabarimala agitation.
In a worst case scenario, what if the BJP wins a couple of seats and manages to come to an even keel with the Left's tally? That would be more than a momentary loss of face. The CPI-M will have to re-imagine its voter base. For long it was backed up the majority Hindu demographics. But if BJP has successfully poached into that turf, what's the Left left with? The UDF has always been a 'minority front' that enjoys the support of the sizeable Muslim and Christian population in the state.
The CPI-M loves to believe that, in fighting BJP violently, it's keeping a fascist party at bay. There's a narcissistic streak in the party. It loves itself too much to fatally ignore its own fascist stripes. It feigns to be the bulwark against fascism, but ends up as the most fearsome proponent of the politics of bloodshed. All in the name of secularism!
What makes the CPI-M hate BJP so violently? Ideology? Yes of course, it's there. But more than that, the Left sees in the rear view mirror another 'Hindu party' racing fast and catching up with them. Shorn of lofty ideologies, it's a dog fight for the turf and an attractive voter base. This election is a crucial touchstone.
A 'secular' consolidation that didn't happen?
Sure, the Left in Kerala will not be washed out if the BJP wins an LS seat in Kerala. A couple of seats for the BJP in a spreadsheet dominated by the Left would have been brushed aside happily. Rather it could have been interpreted as the demise of the Congress in Kerala. But what if the Congress-led UDF wins a lion's share of the seats and the Left and BJP end up with a couple of seats each? That will be the most unpalatable scenario for the party and a daunting challenge for it to deal with in future. It's not clear if that will happen in Kerala. But Vijayan's angry outburst betrays some misgivings.
CPI-M's tactical positioning in Sabarimala was dictated by the demands of realpolitik. It was a given that BJP, the national ruling party, was on the ascendancy in Kerala. By taking a stand against faith and conventions in Sabarimala, the Left wanted to create a straight-laced secular Vs communal paradigm. They figured out that while all that's theirs would remain theirs, all that's Congress's would also become theirs. The Left calculated that the majority Hindu voters would desert Congress and join forces with the BJP while the minorities would flock to them in a 'secular' consolidation.
That would have been a happy outcome for the party. It 's always nice to see your cattle fatten themselves on the neighbour's field while your own sickle (and hammer) hangs lazily from the eave.
All eyes will be on Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta on May 23. Will BJP win these two seats and manage to push the CPM or the Congress to the third position in a couple of other seats?
If that happens, the backlash would be complete for the Left. The flicker of anger in Pinarayi's eyes is portentous!
(The author is Managing Editor, International Business Times, India. Views are personal)