The SNDP - NSS political experiment of 1980s

Sun, Feb 9, 2014

Last week, at the annual congregation of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (S.N.D.P.) Yogam, it’s leaders - Vellaapalli Nadesan and his son Thushaar announced that the Yogam is about to form their own political party that will unite Hindus of Kerala under one umbrella. 1 S.N.D.P. and it’s leaders are no strangers to threatening to announce their intent to form a political party. 2 They did the same in 2012, generating much talk in Kerala’s political landscape. The latest announcement is likely to suffer the same fate as these earlier announcements. To understand why the Yogam is highly unlikely to form a party of their own, one needs to look at the time when they indeed had their own political party - to the late 1970s; and the 1980 election to the Kerala legislature.

The Socialist Republican Party (S.R.P.) formed in 1976 with the blessings of the Yogam and the almost farcical level of communal politics that resulted in it’s aftermath - helped in large by the Nair Service Society (N.S.S.) formation of the National Democratic Party (N.D.P.) offers a great lesson in the often communal nature of class politics in Kerala and how the constant on the other side of the aisle - the Left - reacts to it.

1970s was a torrid time period in the political landscape in Kerala. Achutha Menon’s C.P.I.-led government ruled for 8 years from 1969 - the longest term any government has ruled Kerala. Menon’s C.P.I. ruled with the help of the Indian National Congress, the Kerala Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (I.U.M.L.). In the slug fest between the C.P.I. and the C.P.I.(M) after the Communist party’s split down the middle, the Church stood with the C.P.I., reluctantly siding with the same people against whom they lead an annual procession from the St. George Forane Church, the burial place of the martyrs of the police shooting of 1957. 3 I.N.C. had started distancing from communal politics and this meant that the S.N.D.P. and the N.S.S. found themselves without political parties willing to carry their flags. And they decided to change this situation. N.S.S.’s National Democratic Party (N.D.P.) came to being in 1974, immediately followed by S.N.D.P.’s Socialist Republican Party (S.R.P.) in 1976.

It is worth noticing that these announcements came in the aftermath of the agitation led by the Ezhava, Nair and Christian communities against the State’s Education Bill aimed at ending corruption and bringing parity to the appointment of teachers in colleges. The appointment of teachers to colleges that receive State aid remains a contentions issue in Kerala politics to this day.

In 1979, after Achutha Menon had stepped down and infighting in Congress led to two governments that lasted only 11 months, another temporary alliance took over governance under I.U.M.L.’s Muhammed Koya and his cabinet comprised of a member of the N.D.P. This marriage of convenience made The Hindu remark in an editorial

The front-men have so far been drawn from forces who were communal and sectarian in their own local right and specialize in making an appeal to primordial sentiments. The new gang up, which is likely to prove shortlived is an abomination thrust up on the people of Kerala.

As predicted by The Hindu, the government lasted only 2 months and the State went to an early election in January of 1980. But by this time, something monumental had happened - the C.P.I. and the C.P.I.(M) had decided to consolidate under a grand Left Democratic Front and this meant that the Congress found themselves in the United Democratic Front with such parties as the Kerala Congress, the N.D.P. and the S.R.P. In the election, the electorate firmly voted for the Left’s coalition and both S.R.P. and the N.D.P. failed miserably. The L.D.F. won 93 of the 140 seats and 50.04 per cent of the votes, while the U.D.F. won 46 seats and 40.10 per cent of the votes. 4

The communal appeal of the U.D.F. was glaringly obvious and it was too much for the electorate to digest. The Ezhava voters that S.R.P. thought would form it’s base voted for the Left. It is also worth noting that a large per cent of (nearly 60%) of laborers belonging to the upper caste Nair community and the lower caste Ezhava community were members of the Left parties. 5 The S.R.P. and N.D.P. experiments lost their momentum and went through splits before being politically irrelevant by the end of 1980s.

  1. SNDP makes political plans clear. The Hindu, February 1, 2014. [return]
  2. SNDP Yogam to launch Hindu party. The Hindu, July 6, 2012. [return]
  3. During the liberation struggle against the first Communist government of Kerala, a police shooting resulted in the death of seven followers of the Roman Catholic Church in Angamaly. The seven martyrs of the Church were buried in a common tomb at the cemetery of St. George Forane Church at Angamaly. The Church’s famous slogan Angamali kallarayil, njangade sawdharaanakkil, aa kallarayanu kattayyam, pakaram njangal choodikkum (If it is indeed our Brothers who sleep in the tomb at Angamaly, that tomb be witness, we will have our revenge.) originated after this incident. [return]
  4. The Official Webportal of the Government of Kerala - History of the Kerala Legislature. [return]
  5. George Mathew - Communal Road to a Secular Kerala. Concept Publishing Company, Jan 1, 1989. [return]