Electoral History

Ever since the formation of Kerala in 1956, the Communist Movement has been a predominant force in the electoral politics of the State. Unlike bourgeois parties and forces, the Communist Movement attained this position through a difficult and arduous process. When the former – for instance the Congress and its variants – mobilised (still mobilises) feudal, landlord, caste and communal elements to gain electoral support, the latter worked (still works) at the grass root level mobilising the marginalised section of the society around their quotidian concerns.

Thus while the bourgeoisie always defined/defines their electoral strategies in terms of pulling strings from above through appeasement of caste/communal forces and dominant economic interests, the Communists always rivalled at mass struggles from below and thereby producing organic intellectuals of the people. This came to have two important consequences, both positive as well as negative: on the positive side the Communists succeeded in deciding the electoral agenda (by implication the developmental agenda) of  the state; and on the negative side, caste/ communal forces and vested interests came to have a dominant say in Kerala politics, These forces  always attempt at slandering the Communist Movement and its leaders which was always done with the active support of the bourgeois media and foreign agencies.

Of the two consequences mentioned above, the first needs elaboration. Since 1956 the electoral/ political agenda of Kerala has been moulded by the Communist Party of India, CPI(M) after the split of the movement in 1964.  Land reforms, literacy, educational reforms, administrative reforms, literacy, democratic decentralisation, in short every single policy item that influenced the life of the Keralites were ushered in by the Party. Other political parties thus were forced to work out their agenda as a reaction to these issues which CPI(M) placed before the people. It is another thing that these parties either diluted those programmes or turned their back on them but always swearing outwardly that they stood for implementing them. It is this creative role played by CPI(M) which earned for it a critical space in the electoral / political history of Kerala.

Given the context of economic globalization and CPI(M)’s and its allies opposition towards it, the chances of the left enhancing its electoral clout are substantial. Added to this is its (CPM) unremitting crusade against caste/communal and fundamentalist forces. The increasing acceptability of CPI(M) among certain social groups – Muslims in particular – is a standing testimony to this. All these have their impact on the Lok Sabha, Assembly and local bodies elections.

Table – 1

Performance of CPI / CPI(M) in Lok Sabha Elections (1957 - 2004)
Year Seats Won % of Votes polled
1957 9 37.48
1962 6 35.46
1967 9 24.56
1971 2 26.21
1977 0 20.33
1980 7 21.48
1984 1 22.27
1989 2 22.87
1991 3 20.71
1996 21.16
1998 6 21.00
1999 27.90
2004 12 31.52

 In the bipolar coalition politics of Kerala, where political society is marked by the existence of a large number of minor parties/splinter groups, and where a few thousand votes could decide the electoral fortune of a front, even the most popular political party could not lay claim to more than one – fifth to a quarter of votes and seats in elections. CPI(M)’s performance in both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections proves this point.

Table – 2

Performance of CPI / CPI(M) in Assembly Elections (1957 - 2006)
Year Seats Won % of Votes polled
1957 60 35.28
1960 29 39.14
1965 40 19.87
1967 52 23.51
1970 29 23.83
1977 17 22.18
1980 35 19.35
1982 29 21.42
1987 42 25.71
1991 30 23.85
1996 44 25.84
2001 24 24.30
2006 65 32.59

So far Kerala went to polls thirteen times for electing representatives to the Parliament and State Legislative Assembly. Of these thirteen elections, CPI(M) created history in the 2004 Lok Sabha and 2006 Assembly polls by winning the largest contingent of seats and votes. In the 2004 elections, party got a record tally of 12 seats and 31.52 percent votes and in the subsequent Assembly elections this was an whopping 65 seats and 33 per cent votes. If one takes into account the elections after 1965, CPI(M) has an average of five seats and 24 percent votes for Lok Sabha elections and 37 seats and 24 per cent  votes in the case of Assembly. For the undivided Comunist Party, this was eight seats and 36.47 per cent votes for the Lok Sabha and 45 seats and 37.21 per cent votes for the Assembly.