OPEN APP
Home / Elections 2019 / Lok Sabha Elections 2019 /  How BJP, Congress hope to benefit from the rise of a Hindu vote bank in Kerala

How BJP, Congress hope to benefit from the rise of a Hindu vote bank in Kerala

Last year, the Supreme Court ruling allowing women of menstrual age to enter the Sabarimala shrine. (PTI)Premium
Last year, the Supreme Court ruling allowing women of menstrual age to enter the Sabarimala shrine. (PTI)

  • After the Sabarimala controversy, the BJP is expected to increase its vote share but this may not translate into seats, according to surveys
  • Religion was a deciding factor for voters in pockets across Kerala, including those who traditionally vote for the Left parties or Congress, who have now cast their ballot on the basis of their ‘Hindu’ identity

BENGALURU : Will the 2019 general elections show the rise of a Hindu vote bank in Kerala, benefitting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? Or will it end up further consolidating the state’s two dominant forces, the Left and Congress? Either way, the results in Kerala are tipped to make history.

Discussions about faith are not the staple of Kerala politics, especially for the two parties that ruled the state for decades, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM and the Congress. However, the situation is different this time.

Religion was a deciding factor for voters in pockets across Kerala, including those who traditionally vote for the Left parties or Congress and its allies, who have now cast their ballot on the basis of their “Hindu" identity.

This is the result of protests over last year’s Supreme Court ruling allowing women of menstrual age to enter the Sabarimala shrine. Several caste outfits, as well as religious leaders supported the agitations. The BJP embraced and led the agitation after initial hesitation. In an internal party meet, its state president Sreedharan Pillai called it a “golden chance" for the party to grow in Kerala.

Hindus comprise 55% of Kerala’s population but have never sent a BJP candidate to Parliament from this beef-loving state. After the Sabarimala controversy, the BJP is expected to increase its vote share but this may not translate into seats, according to surveys.

A dull performance by the BJP, on the other hand, would vindicate the stand of the CPM, which says its support for women over the Sabarimala controversy has increased its popularity.

“If anything, the Sabarimala agitations have shown to what extent the BJP will go to polarize the state for a few votes. We are sure the people’s support to our progressive stand will be visible once the results are out," said V. Vijayaraghavan, a CPM leader and convener of Left Democratic Front.

The Congress party, on the other hand, expects the rise of a Hindu vote bank to benefit it more than the BJP.

“We supported the agitation but did not indulge in violence like the BJP. It has helped us consolidate both Hindu voters and minority votes at the same time," said Congress spokesperson Joseph Vazhakkan.

Some analysts agree. “The high voter turnout in politically important and minority-dominated constituencies suggests the BJP elbowing for power has only benefitted the BJP and Congress," said Jacob George, an analyst. “The question is who will benefit most from the anti-BJP votes."

The BJP remains hopeful. “A significant surge in vote shares for the BJP, proving a split of Kerala’s bipolar vote banks to create a third Hindu vote bank, could bring a tectonic shift in the state politics. Unlike in other states, it has only taken a small slide in vote shares for the communists and the Congress to win or lose seats in Kerala," said a BJP leader, requesting not to be named.

In 2014, Kerala’s 20 Lok Sabha members were elected with an average of just 4% vote share margin, compared to the all-India average of 14%, according to a recent Hindustan Times analysis.

Kerala is the only large state, where the BJP has not been able to win a single Lok Sabha constituency despite a huge presence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Its vote share is only 10.8% in Kerala as of 2014.

“It (the 2019 Lok Sabha polls) is the most caste-based and communalized election in the recent past," said Kerala-based political analyst J. Prabhash.

“The BJP made its biggest effort to create a Hindu vote bank based on the Sabarimala issue. But we don’t know yet how the public is going to react. Now it is only on the realm of inferences. On one side, people had come out in favour of the court order. On the other, people had rallied in favour of the faith. A surge in turnout also indicate that there was some wave on the ground," he said.


Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
More Less
Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.
Close

Recommended For You

×
Edit Profile
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsWatchlistFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout