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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Sabarimala: Can faith open doors for BJP in Kerala in 2019?

The BJP expects at least a 2-3 percentage points increase in vote share with its aggressive campaign on Sabarimala

Bengaluru: In India, the half-year period called Uttarayan starting from 14 January this year is important for religious reasons. In Kerala, the day might also decide the fortunes of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

The two-month-long pilgrimage season in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple ends on 14 January. A day later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah will launch the party’s general election campaign in Kerala, the only state where the BJP is yet to win a parliamentary seat.

The most crucial contest between the Left and the Right in the forthcoming general election may happen in Kerala.

The BJP expects at least a 2-3 percentage point vote share increase with its aggressive campaign on Sabarimala supporting the temple’s ban on women of menstruating age, said a senior party leader, who is privy to talks with Shah, on condition of anonymity. The Sabarimala campaign has won the BJP the support of the upper castes, especially Nairs.

The BJP is in an alliance with Vellappally Natesan, leader of the lower caste Ezhavas who form the majority of Hindus. However, he has not been consistent in his support.

“We already have 15% (vote share, according to the results of the last assembly election in 2016). We expect a 2-3 percentage point increase in vote-share per parliamentary seat with our Sabarimala campaign... We would be able to crack the bottom-base of the Left, the upper-caste Nair votes," said the BJP leader.

“If those votes add up in particular constituencies, our strike rate will go up. In at least 7-8 constituencies, we will be in a position to win or at least come close. This is the first time that the Nair community has warmed up to the BJP in such a big manner," said the leader quoted above.

In eight out of the 20 districts, the BJP had vote shares ranging from 10% to 28% in the 2014 polls. Even at a maximum 3 percentage point increase in vote share, the race may still be tough for the party, according to analysts.

“Except in Thiruvananthapuram, I don’t see a BJP winner emerging. The word out is that the Left may ask Kanam Rajendran (the boss of the Communist Party of India) to contest. The BJP also lacks the benefit of the crucial Nair votes in the capital, as they have always been staunch supporters of Shashi Tharoor, who is likely to be the Congress candidate," said Anoop Parameshwaran, a Kerala-based journalist and political commentator.

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