Ernakulam: Discussions in the Lok Sabha elections revolved around the question of religion among Hindu voters in Kerala. Voters agitated over breaking the faith ban for menstrual-age women in the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, which was for sure a deciding factor on the ballot. Probably that's why the Bharatiya Janata Party hopes to make its biggest break in this election in the state, which has traditionally voted for either the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM or the Congress.
The BJP embraced and led the agitation after initial hesitation. In an internal party meet, state president Sreedharan Pillai called it a “golden chance" for the party to grow in Kerala. The agitation became the party’s largest expansion in Kerala, where Hindus comprise 55% of Kerala’s population, but had never sent a BJP candidate to Parliament.
Riding upon the Sabarimala protests, the BJP expects to win at least one seat— the Thiruvananthapuram seat where it has fielded arguably its biggest vote catcher, former Mizoram governor and previous state president Kummanam Rajasekharan— and create history. Almost all major exit polls predicted a BJP victory in the seat. In other seats, it is expected to increase its vote share but this may not translate into seats, according to major exit polls.
A dull performance by the BJP, on the other hand, would vindicate the stand of the CPM. According to the latter, its support for women over the Sabarimala controversy increased its popularity.
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However, the odds are against the BJP. The party expected a more defining verdict than shown in the exit poll, and the fight in the Thiruvananthapuram seat is by no means easy. Star Congress politician and sitting MP Shashi Tharoor is seeking a third term from the seat, whereas the CPM has also fielded one of its local strongman, former Foods and Civil Supplies minister C. Divakaran.
Perhaps, it was for no reason that BJP state president Sreedharan Pillai was less than cheerful while talking to reporters after the exit polls. “If things go according to exit polls, Keralites lack political awareness," he said. He recalled the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, the first one after Emergency, when Congress had hit a nadir on its popularity, but found an overwhelming support in Kerala. Ever since, Kerala has been known for voting against the mood of the nation.
“The high voter turnout in politically important and minority-dominated constituencies suggests the BJP elbowing for power has only benefitted the BJP and Congress," political analyst Jacob George had said in an earlier interview. “The question is who will benefit most from the anti-BJP votes."