Kerala: BJP doesn't gain much as UDF reaps Sabarimala dividend
Despite its efforts to exploit the Sabarimala issue for political mileage, the BJP-led NDA gained only 0.63 per cent vote share in Kerala as compared to the last Assembly election, indicating that it is the Congress-led UDF that gained from the temple controversy.
Last year, the BJP and other Hindu outfits led a movement against the Supreme Court’s order lifting age restrictions on entry of women to the Sabarimala Temple. The issue snowballed into a face-off between those opposing the judgment and the LDF-led state government that tried to implement it.
In this parliamentary election, the BJP failed to win any seat in the southern state. The party led in the Nemom Assembly segment and finished a runner-up in six other Assembly segments where it pushed the CPM to the third slot. Of these six seats, bypolls are to be held in two seats soon.
The NDA’s vote share was 10.09 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP-led NDA got 14.93 per cent votes in the 2016 Assembly elections. The vote share went up by 0.63 per cent this time to 15.56 per cent. So despite its agitation on the Sabarimala issue, it is the UDF that benefited from the Left’s dismal show.
BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said, “We have increased our vote share to around 16 per cent, which is the highest in the history of the party in Kerala. We have not done a ground analysis of why the Sabarimala issue did not benefit the BJP in terms of votes….We would also analyse whether the entry of Christian leader P C George ( an independent legislator) to NDA fold benefited or backfired in Pathanamthitta,’’ said Pillai.
BJP sources said the party had mobilised maximum votes in constituencies such as Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta, which it hoped to win. “But in other constituencies, where we did not have a winning chance, if the Hindu votes were polled for BJP, the winner would have been LDF. We wanted to defeat CPM mainly on account of that party’s stand on Sabarimala. Hence, a section of BJP votes would have gone to Congress in some constituencies. Otherwise, our vote share would have been much higher,’’ a source said.
According to party sources, in Vatakara and Kannur constituencies in north Kerala, BJP did not get votes as per party expectations. “We have a vote bank of 80,000 in Kannur, but only 68,500 polled for the party,” a source said.
In Pathanamthitta, the ground zero of Sabarimala agitation, the BJP made considerable gains in vote share. From 1,38,954 votes in the 2014 election, the party got 2,97,396 votes in 2019. In Attingal, where Sabarimala was a key issue, BJP votes went up from 90,528 in 2014 to 2,46,502 in 2019.
In Kasaragod, the BJP finished second in two assembly segments, pushing CPM to the third slot in both places. In Thrissur, the BJP got 1,02,681 votes in 2014. This time party candidate and Rajya Sabha MP Suresh Gopi bagged 2,93,822 votes. Gopi finished second in the Thrissur assembly segment.