Kerala Assembly by-polls: Powerful Nair body sheds policy of ‘equidistance’, may upset political calculations

Shedding its traditional policy of equal distance, the Nair Service Society has opted for the policy of ‘correct distance’, a euphemism for support to the UDF

Representational image
Representational image

P Sreekumaran/IPA

The campaigning in the five Assembly by-elections in the State has acquired a new dimension with the Nair Service Society (NSS), the powerful organisation of the Nairs, changing its political stance.

Shedding its traditional policy of equidistance, the NSS has opted for the policy of correct distance, a euphemism for support to the UDF.

This ‘political somersault’ has, not surprisingly, caused concern among all the three major fronts. But the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the BJP-headed National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have reasons to be more worried.

The reasons for the shift in NSS stance are not difficult to divine. The organisation is on record that what has constrained it to change its traditional stance is the LDF Government’s ‘unpardonable’ stand on the sensitive Sabarimala issue, which the NSS feels has hurt the sentiments and interests of the believers.

Another reason which forced the NSS hand is what it has termed as the Government’s neglect of and indifference to the interests of the forward community, the Nairs in particular. An angry NSS has virtually given a call to the powerful community to vote for the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

Needless to say, the NSS decision has upset the calculations of both the LDF and the NDA. True, the CPI(M) and the CPI are putting on a brave front. But they cannot but be worried by the impact the NSS move will have on the voting pattern in the five constituencies.

Likewise, the BJP and its allies also feel that the subtle shift in NSS stand will affect the prospects of their candidates, particularly in Vattiyurkavu and Konni where the BJP feels it has a reasonably good chance of romping home the winner. The Nair community has a sizable presence in both the constituencies.

On its part, the CPI(M) and the CPI try to minimise the impact of the NSS stand on the voting g pattern. Members of the NSS belong to all political parties. Therefore, Nairs are not going to vote en mass against the LDF, say the LDF poll managers.

A sizable slice of the Nair vote will come their way, NSS general secretary G. Sukumaran Nair’s directive notwithstanding, they argue. Of course, their optimism is not entirely without basis.

The BJP also feels the same way. They UDF may become the principal beneficiary of the change in NSS stand. But the Nair community will certainly not give the saffron candidate the royal cold shoulder on the voting day, the NDA spin doctors claim.

The UDF camp is, understandably happy over the NSS decision. The decision has come as a godsend for the Front, which has been shaken to the core b y the feud in the Kerala Congress(M) camp which resulted in the shocking defeat of the UDF candidate in the Pala assembly by-election.

Pala, the UDF leaders point out, was an aberration. And the voters who ditched the UDF in Pala will return to their camp in the five by-elections, scheduled to be held on October 21, they argue.

It is true the CPI(M) has been taken by surprise by the shift in NSS stand. But the party and the LDF are confident that the momentum generated by the Pala victory will be maintained in the five by-0elecrtions as well.

The CPI(M) is particularly confident about the return of the minorities, who voted overwhelmingly for the UDF in the Lok Sabha elections, to their camp in these by-elections. The LDF will also be benefited by what the front considers the impressive performance of the Pinarayi Vijayan Government during the last four years.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) has filed a complaint against the NSS before the Election Commission for canvassing votes in the name of the Nair community, particularly in constituencies like Vattihyurkavu and Konni. This, the party says, is in blatant violation of the rules.

And the party hopes the EC will take note of the undesirable development and act against the NSS. What is fuelling the hopes of the LDF is the disapproval by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) in Kerala of the tendency of community organisations to seek votes in the name of a particular community.

Has the overconfident NSS exceeded all limits? The answer will be available in the next few days. No doubt, the decision of the CEO will have a crucial bearing on the voting pattern in all the constituencies going to the polls on October 21.

For all the latest India News, Follow India Section.