Complete washout in Kerala; BJP remains distant third in state
In red surge in Kerala on Sunday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was washed out and it failed to save its lone seat Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram which the BJP often dubbed as ‘Kerala’s Gujarat’. But even in such a hostile climate, the wounded BJP is eyeing the space vacated by the Congress.
Two years ago, the party had announced its grand plan of a “Congress Mukt Bharat” and often poached disgruntled leaders and allegedly toppled governments, the last time being in Puducherry.
“It is a fact that before election, some leaders were approached. But the political climate in Kerala is unlike that of north India and other parts of the country. Let the party first save its depleting space before poaching on other parties,” said a senior Congress leader, who did not want to be named.
Many senior Congress leaders have urged an overhaul in the party. Party workers took to social media to highlight this and sought elevation of Kannur strongman K Sudhakaran MP as PCC president to lift workers’ morale. Senior leader and former minister Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan later endorsed it too.
Out of 95 seats the Congress contested, it got 21 and the BJP drew a blank, losing all 113 seats it contested. A close look at the results shows that the BJP’s high-decible campaign that it is the only credible alternative in bipolar politics fell flat.
What is more embarrassing for the party is that it roped in Metro Man E Sreedharan at the eleventh hour (he joined the party three weeks before the election) and projected him as the CM candidate and tried to highlight his “clean image and integrity”. Almost all national leaders descended onto the state, including Prime Minister Modi, and lauded the expertise of the 88-year-old civil engineer to curry favour but voters were least convinced. Before results, Sreedharan even opened an office of the legislator in Palakkad.
Sreedharan did put up a spirited fight in Palakkad till the last round before admitting defeat at the hands of sitting Congress legislator Shafi Parambhil by over 3,000 votes. Party district president E Krishnadas said there was rampant cross-voting to block Sreedharan’s victory. “All teamed up to ensure his defeat. The CPI(M)’s total votes came down to 8,000,” he said.
Though party candidates came second in eight seats, the vote share of BJP+ was 14% in comparison to that of Lok Sabha elections’ 15.3%, latest statistics show. It was aiming for a jump of 5% and a couple of seats but it failed. Its second big alliance partner the Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena, a political outfit of backward Ezhavas, also failed to make a mark. In the last assembly elections, the BJP alone had 12. 6 % vote share which came down to 11.30% this time and BDJS vote share dipped from 3% to 1.75% this time.
To add it its woes, party state president K Surendran lost in two constituencies-- Mancheswaram in north Kerala and Konni in Pathanamthitta. He shuttled between two constituencies on a chopper which evoked much criticism. “There was only a single point agenda to prevent blooming of the lotus. Parties were in a race to ensure this. A big communal polarisation in favour of the ruling CPI(M) took place,” said Surendran.
BJP national leaders had raised many issues like love jihad, Sabarimala temple issue, the gold smuggling case and arrest of party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son in drug and money laundering cases but they failed to enthuse voters.
“Due to Kerala’s unique demography, it is difficult for the party to get a strong foothold. It tried its best to rake up the Sabarimala temple issue but results show it failed to make any impact. Infighting in the state unit also played its role,” said political commentator Sunnykutty Abraham, adding the party will remain a distant third in the state.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan also came down heavily on party’s belligerent campaign. “We promised to close the single account of the BJP and we managed it. Such forces have no place in a state like Kerala, which swears by communal harmony. It is better for its national leaders to understand it at least now,” he said in Kannur (north Kerala) on Sunday, reacting to the BJP’s performance.