Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Can Rajeev Chandrasekhar beat 3-time winner Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram?

Does tech-savvy BJP candidate Rajeev Chandrasekhar stand a chance against three-time MP Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram? Let's look at how the constituency has voted in the past three Lok Sabha elections

Chanchal
Updated26 Apr 2024
Lok Sabha elections 2024: Does Rajeev Chandrasekhar stand a chance against 3-time MP Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram?
Lok Sabha elections 2024: Does Rajeev Chandrasekhar stand a chance against 3-time MP Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram?(PTI)

The electoral battle in Thiruvananthapuram is all flared up for a high-stakes face-off between senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, seeking a fourth consecutive term, and Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) candidate. For 15 years, the constituency has been inseparable from the name ‘Shashi Tharoor’ as voters have consistently elected the Congress leader to represent them in the Lok Sabha.

Fielding a newbie against a rather popular and people-elect Shashi Tharoor, who has amassed a loyal base over the years, is a significant gamble for the BJP, as it aims to gain a foothold in Kerala.

This raises the question: Does tech-savvy BJP candidate Rajeev Chandrasekhar stand a chance against three-time MP Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram? Let's look at how Thiruvananthapuram has voted in the past three Lok Sabha elections.

THE STORY OF PAST ELECTIONS IN THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

The parliamentary constituency has switched between the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Congress since 1977, but Shashi Tharoor has come a long way since he first won the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in 2009. Despite the said “Modi wave”, which turned the fate of many big leaders in the country, the impact has been least visible in Thiruvananthapuram.

The Lok Sabha constituency has consistently seen an upward trend in voter turnout during the 2009, 2014, and 2019 elections. In 2009, the voter turnout was 65.74 per cent; in 2014, the turnout increased to 68.63 per cent and in 2019, the voter turnout was recorded at 73.45 per cent.

Although the BJP candidates couldn't unseat Shashi Tharoor in the past two elections, the vote share reflects that they were neck-and-neck with the Congress leader in these elections.

HOW THIRUVANANTHAPURAM VOTED IN PAST THREE ELECTIONS

2009 Lok Sabha elections: Thiruvananthapuram saw a three-cornered contest between Congress' Shashi Tharoor, who was contesting for the first time from the seat, CPI's P Ramachandran Nair, BSP's A Neelalohithadasan Nadar. Shashi Tharoor won the seat with 326,725 (44.29 per cent votes), defeating CPI's P Ramachandran Nair with a margin of 99,998 votes. The CPI candidate won 226,727 (30.74 per cent votes). The BJP was far behind, winning 84,094 votes.

2014 Lok Sabha elections: As India rallied behind Narendra Modi's “ab ki baar Modi sarkar”, BJP, too, advanced two steps in the Thiruvananthapuram seat, narrowing the gap in the race with Shashi Tharoor. The BJP increased its vote share by 20.92 per cent from the 2009 elections as Shashi Tharoor's vote share dropped by 10.20 per cent. In a tight race, Shashi Tharoor won 297,806 votes in the 2014 elections, and BJP's seasoned O Rajagopal won 2,82,336 votes. The margin of votes was only 15,470.

2019 Lok Sabha elections: Shashi Tharoor won the Thiruvananthapuram seat again with a larger vote margin of 99,989. BJP's Kummanam Rajasekharan was pitted against Shashi Tharoor. The saffron party's total vote share decreased by 1.02 percent, while Congress' increased by 7.10 percent.

In an interview with ANI recently, Shashi Tharoor commented on the BJP's campaign in Thiruvananthapuram: “It's not a surprise that they have turned out to be a strong player. The Communist campaign has been lacklustre, whereas the BJP has moved into the second position in this constituency.” 

In the Lok Sabha 2024 elections, Shashi Tharoor is looking to retain the support of his loyal base. The BJP, buoyed by its performance over the years, is eyeing to wrest power from the Congress, placing all its hopes on Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who has never contested the Lok Sabha elections before.

THE NAIR VS NAIR FACTOR

The Nair community, the second-largest Hindu community in Kerala, accounts for nearly 14 percent of the state population. Its outfit, the Nair Service Society (NSS) general secretary Sukumaran Nair, mocked Shashi Tharoor by calling him a “Delhi Nair” when he first entered the fray in Thiruvananthapuram but has since changed his opinion of him.

“I regret calling him a Delhi Nair when he came to contest the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. He is not a Delhi Nair. He is a son of Kerala and a global citizen,” Nair was quoted as saying by Onmanorama in January 2023.

Tharoor's opponent, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, is also a member of the Nair community but has never lived in the state. Shashi Tharoor, too, was a political newbie when the Congress leadership fielded him in Thiruvananthapuram in 2009.

‘PULSE IS CLEAR, PEOPLE ARE FED UP’: CHANDRASEKHAR

With eyes on the southern state, the BJP has not left any stone unturned over the past few years to establish contact with the people. Time and again, the Centre has attacked the Kerala government and the Congress, from its lack of implementation of the CAA and the alleged existence of  “love jihad” to the controversies surrounding the movie, ‘The Kerala Story’.

Unperturbed by Shashi Tharoor's popularity, Rajeev Chandrasekhar believes the mood of the Lok Sabha constituency is in his favour.

On the campaign trail in Thiruvananthapuram on April 23, Chandrasekhar said to ANI, “The pulse is clear to me. People are fed up with no progress, no jobs, and no development. Youth are increasingly frustrated about the high unemployment rate, and everybody wants some change. People want to hear how an MP, a party, or a leader can transform and improve their lives. That is precisely what my message is. I think the people of Thiruvananthapuram want the same.” 

When the BJP candidate was asked about Shashi Tharoor, Chandrasekhar said he doesn't want certificates from someone “who has not done any work for 15 years”.

“If he thinks being an MP means doing no work, that is his interpretation of his job. My interpretation is that, as a responsible, responsive and empathetic MP, when I see some problems, I try to solve them. He believes in writing letters when he sees problems,” he said.

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