ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Countering the Left by Moving Rightwards

Political Positioning of the Congress in Kerala

Countering the Left by Moving Rightwards

The palpable rightward shift of the Congress in Kerala, specifically with regard to Sabarimala, is consistent with the conservative political posturing which the party has for long articulated in the state, especially towards questions around social reforms. However, the present positioning, with its proximity to a narrative of Hindu victimhood, has also gained some new dimensions.

 

Locating the Congress party in a political spectrum has always been a difficult task for political commentators. The issue is more complex when it comes to its approach towards social change. A mixed legacy of social reform and social conservatism,1 relative autonomy enjoyed by its lower units in taking positions considering local social conditions, and the inherent catch-all nature of the party have contributed in making it elastic. Also, the organisation has been elusive about creating political subjects through political pedagogy.2 So much so that during the 1990s, when social groups across India were increasingly positioning themselves along definite political axioms, Heath and Yadav (1999) would point out that the social base of the Congress was strongest among residual social groups, that is, those groups that are yet to be politicised. The end result has been the oscillating tendency of the Congress, from one point of the political spectrum to another, devoid of any coherent political articulation.

Accordingly, its reliance on local power structures in winning elections (Weiner 1967: 15) and its attempt to accommodate the conservative political subjects formed by various discursive practices with its ‘‘catch all’’ logic, have made it willingly dance to the tunes of conservative (or even reactionary) forces in contexts where they enjoy an unchallenged hegemony. The latest example being their softer postures towards Hindutva, particularly evident regarding the Ram Janmabhoomi temple construction. But what is more interesting and relevant is how the Congress has operated in social contexts like that of Kerala, where socially progressive forces have established their hegemony, or at least, have entrenched themselves as a strong opposition to social conservatism. Here, we examine the Congress’s engagement with such a social situation with an immediate aim of explaining the palpable rightward shift, which we think has manifested most clearly in the Congress stance on the Sabarimala controversy, in the contemporary political positioning of the Congress party in Kerala.

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Updated On : 22nd Feb, 2021

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