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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Did the Sabarimala issue affect voter behaviour?

A parliamentary constituency (PC) wise analysis of voter turnout figures shows that Pathanamthitta, the PC where the Sabarimala shrine is located, registered the highest growth in voter turnout.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 28, 2019 07:45 IST
Vineet Sachdev
Vineet Sachdev
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sabarimala,Sabarimala issue,Lok Sabha
The BJP is hoping to make inroads into Kerala by exploiting popular sentiment against the Supreme Court order allowing women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala shrine.(Reuters File Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to make inroads into Kerala by exploiting popular sentiment against the Supreme Court order allowing women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala shrine. Voter turnout figures released by the Election Commission of India show that polling percentage in Kerala was 77.6%, highest in Lok Sabha elections since 1991. To be sure, voter turn out has increased in all Lok Sabha elections in Kerala since 1998.

A parliamentary constituency (PC) wise analysis of voter turnout figures shows that Pathanamthitta, the PC where the Sabarimala shrine is located, registered the highest growth in voter turnout. This region has seen continuous protests against the court verdict and the ruling Left Democratic Front government(LDF). Does this mean that the BJP stands to gain from this issue?

Pathanamthitta PC is currently with the Congress, which defeated an independent candidate backed by the LDF in 2014 with a victory margin of 6.5% of total votes polled. The BJP finished third with a 16% vote share. The same candidate won the seat for the Congress in 2009 as well, with a vote share of 51%. The BJP’s vote share in 2009 was 7%. This means that the BJP more than doubled its vote share between 2009 and 2014. However, its vote share figures at the PC level came down to 11% in the 2016 assembly election. Another important fact worth underlining is that the Pathanamthitta PC has been closing its gap with the rest of Kerala in terms of voter turnout since 2009.

A comparison of change in voter turnout and increase in BJP’s vote share in Kerala between 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections does not show a very strong correlation. BJP’s 2014 vote share in Kerala was four percentage points more than that in 2009. (See Chart)

This suggests that the BJP’s gains are more from its ability to attract voters from other political parties in the state rather than appeal to a silent group which did not come out to vote for either the Left or the Congress, the two dominant players in the state.

It remains to be seen whether the BJP can continue to usurp voters from the two dominant players in Kerala politics and maybe convert this gain into seats.

First Published: Apr 28, 2019 07:45 IST