Ernakulam: At the height of another Modi wave in India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Kerala are having a bittersweet moment. Even as the BJP performed unusually well nationally, the state unit drew a blank in Kerala again despite its biggest expansion in the state over the six months over Sabarimala protests.
The BJP has not won a parliamentary seat in Kerala despite surging ahead across India. Not many expected the party to win many seats this time too, except one seat which nearly every exit poll said was within the reach of the party— Thiruvananthapuram.
The seat was the biggest worry of the Congress since its star politician and sitting MP Shashi Tharoor was seeking a reelection from the seat. The BJP made a high-profile campaign, making its former state president and arguably the biggest vote-catcher, Kummanam Rajasekharan, resign as Mizoram governor and contest from the seat.
Tharoor maintained a significant lead ahead of Rajasekharan throughout the counting, but for a few early moments when ballot votes were counted, probably from the army. By 2pm, when 62.25% of the counting was over, Rajasekharan was trailing behind Tharoor by 32,844 votes.
The party not only seems to be winning the seat, or any other, but on first glance has received a drubbing worse than its comparatively competent performance in the previous 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, it managed to get about 10% vote share, its first two-digit share, and in 2016 assembly elections managed to increase its vote share to 16%.
At the nerve center of the Sabarimala protests is the Pathanamthitta constituency. Congress' sitting MP Anto Antony is ahead of the runner-up from the ruling CPM, Veena George, by 33,000 votes.
The BJP’s high-profile candidate, state secretary K Surendran, is at the third place. Around 80% of the votes had been counted at 2pm. The situation is similar in Thrissur, another most sought after seat by the BJP.
According to the BJP, the Sabarimala advantage clearly reflected in the election, but benefitted the Congress rather than them. In an unprecedented manner, the Congress is set to sweep 19 out of the 20 seats in Kerala, something which would not have been possible if not for the extraordinary support of majority Hindus as well as minority Christians and Muslims.
“Mannum chaari ninnavan pennum kond poy (man leaning on the wall eloped with the girl)," said Kerala BJP leader B Gopalakrishnan. “It is an anti-Pinarayi result. Sabarimala-influential pockets have voted against CPM. The Congress benefited out of these votes as well as minority populated areas. Basically, the advantage of all our work was reaped by the Congress that did nothing on Sabarimala."
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