Ernakulam: If the exit polls results are any indicator, both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have reasons to cheer in Kerala. The Congress would sweep most of the seats, while the BJP would make history in Kerala by winning its first-ever parliamentary seat in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, according to most of the exit polls out so far.
Kerala shot to prominence in polls this time with Congress president Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad, and Sabarimala protests holding out the potential for the BJP to open its account in the state. Both developments are expected to cut into the votes of Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led ruling front— a devastating trend for the party that was once India’s first Opposition party, but now relegated to ruling only Kerala. The CPM lined up a strong panel of popular local faces as candidates, whom they hope will give an edge ahead in the fight.
Except for the News18-IPSOS exit poll, three other major exit polls said the Congress was likely to win 15-16 seats out of the total 20 in Kerala. These three include India Today-Axis, News 24-Today’s Chanakya and Times Now-VMR. The News18-IPSOS exit poll predicted 11-13 seats for the CPM-led ruling front, and 7-9 seats for the Congress. Except News 24-Today’s Chanakya exit poll, the other three said the BJP might open its account in Kerala with one seat.
The BJP’s entry in Kerala would be historic. Kerala’s electorate for the last four decades had been almost frozen between two non-BJP fronts— the CPM-led Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front. The BJP never won a parliamentary seat in Kerala, despite the party’s rollercoaster ride across the country. From winning only two seats in its debut national election in 1984, the BJP is now in power in 16 of the 29 states in India, either directly or as an alliance. In Kerala, but, it largely failed to make any electoral inroads, except for getting one assembly seat in 2016.
The BJP’s heightened hopes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls come from its rise to prominence from backing the Sabarimala protests. The temple shrine Sabarimala witnessed a popular upheaval against a Supreme Court order overturning a ritual ban on young women visiting the temple in 2018. The BJP backed the protests.
Exit poll results do not give seat prediction, but the BJP was pinning most of its hope on the Thiruvananthapuram seat, where it increased most votes in the past and even came second in the previous 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
It fell short of only around a mere 20,000 votes from the winner, Congress’ star politician Shashi Tharoor, in 2014, who is seeking a third consecutive win in 2019. The BJP fielded arguably its biggest vote catcher, former state president and ex-Mizoram governor Kummanam Rajasekharan, to win the seat this election.
Apart from Thiruvananthapuram, the party is also pinning its hopes to substantially increase vote share if not winning, on at least two other seats— Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam and Thrissur. Pathanamthitta is also where Sabarimala is situated, therefore naturally becoming a bellwether seat for the temple topic’s influence on the polls.
Exit polls come with a caveat. The sample sizes for exit polls are usually ridiculously low for a country as big as India. The India Today-Axis exit poll, one of the largest polls among the lot, for instance, covers about 7.42 lakh voters out of India's about 900 million voters. Also, the larger the sample size, the larger are the chances for errors to creep in, as the channel’s top editor Rajdeep Sardesai said while announcing the results. However, depending upon the quality of the sample analysed, exit polls could give a projection of the trends.
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