In Kerala, BJP loses lone seat won in 2016
In a red surge in Kerala on Sunday the saffron party was washed away. The BJP even failed to save the lone seat it won in 2016, Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram .But the party can take solace from the Congress’ performance -- something that could potentially open up more space for it.
The BJP has, over the past few years, expanded inorganically through defections. Senior BJP leaders said some Congress leaders were in touch with them.
“It is fact that before the election some leaders were approached, but the political climate is different in Kerala. Let the BJP first saved its depleting space before poaching ,” said a senior Congress leader, who did not want to be named. This person added that the Congress suspects a secret understanding between the ruling front and the CPI(M) to weaken the Congress .
Still, sensing danger from the BJP, many senior Congress leaders have urged an overhaul in the party . Out of 95 seats the Congress contested the party won 21 seats and the BJP lost all 113 seats it contested.
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Metro Man E Sreedharan, drafted by the BJP late in the day (he joined the party three weeks before the election) and projected as the chief ministerial candidate did not help the party’s chances. Nor did campaigning by almost all senior national leaders, including the Prime Minister.
BJP district president E Krishnadas said there was rampant cross voting in the seat to block the victory of Metro Man. “All (parties) teamed up to ensure his defeat,” he said.
Though BJP candidates came second in eight constituencies, the NDA’s vote share slipped to 14 % from 15.3 % in 2016.The party was hoping for a 20% share and a few seats but that wasn’t to be. Its alliance partner the Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena also failed to put up spirited fight.
To add to its woes, party state president K Surendran lost in two constituencies. During the campaign, he commuted between two constituencies on a chopper which had evoked much criticism.
BJP national leaders raised many issues such as Love Jihad (a conspiracy theory about Muslim men pretending to be from other religions and marrying women whom they then force to convert) , the entry of women into Sabarimala etc-- 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 emotional 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.