India’s southwestern state of Kerala, noted for its high levels of social development, exhibited markedly different patterns in the 2014 election from most other parts of the country. In Kerala, parties on the far left did quite well, as did the center-left Indian National Congress, whereas the center-right BJP performed quite poorly, as did regionalist parties. To understand the electoral geography of Kerala, it is necessary to examine religion and caste.
The Ezhavas, the most numerous of all the Hindu groups in Kerala, are also the most puzzling of its peoples. Subdues by centuries by the Brahmins and the Nairs, regarded as outside the four-fold caste system, they nevertheless retained a pride even in their position as the leading caste of the outcastes, and during the nineteenth century developed a great will to rise above the limitations which society had laid upon them … . The Ezhavas sought education, even established their own schools… . Fortunate Ezhavas took to business and the Congress Party: unfortunate ones to radical rebellion, for the poor Ezhavas have long formed the dedicated core of the Communist Party in Kerala. … No group anywhere in India has so successfully, by its own efforts, removed itself from the double stigma of untouchability and ex-untouchability.