The grand Janata reunion just announced by Mulayam Singh Yadav and others has put their Kerala compatriots in a bind. The two Janata outfits in Kerala, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Janata Dal (United), are part of rival fronts and neither, as of now, seems willing to shift camp. The Kerala JD(U) was formed when the CPM-led LDF refused the JD(S) its preferred Lok Sabha seat in the 2009 general elections. While the new party joined the UDF, and later, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), the parent JD(S) stayed with the LDF. Both the Kerala fronts are now wooing the Janata Parivar. If the JD(U), which has two MLAs, walks out, the ruling UDF’s majority would be reduced to a single MLA, putting the government itself at risk. With the assembly election hardly a year away and given the pattern of alternation of the two fronts, the Janata MLAs may prefer the LDF.
But in Kerala, this is not just a Janata conundrum. Though Kerala politics revolves around two stable fronts, the cast of minor characters in the two coalitions has constantly changed. While the Congress and the CPM play the role of pivot, their partners frequently split and merge, while shifting sides. It was Kerala Congress (KC) leader, K.M. Mani, who once said his party splits as it grows and grows as it splits. Mani’s maxim for the KC holds true for most Kerala parties, including the Muslim League, the RSP and the socialists.
The art of splits and mergers was perfected by Kerala’s socialists. In fact, the first split among Indian socialists, precursors to the Janata Parivar, was triggered by an incident in the Travancore region of Kerala in 1954, over which Rammanohar Lohia left the PSP to form the SSP. Every split or merger among socialists at the national level — in 1977, 1979 and 1989, for instance — has impacted Kerala since. The squabbles of socialists add spice to Kerala’s coalition politics.