One thing is almost certain at this stage. The BJP will not be able to secure the target it has set for itself, which is 4 lakh votes or 40 per cent of the total votes polled in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency on April 23.
History is proof. Never before has any party managed to get 40 per cent of the votes in an intense three-cornered fight. Not in 2014, not in 2004, and not in 1999; the three years when there was at least a semblance of a three-way fight.
Even in 1999, when O Rajagopal was not much of a threat, Congress's V S Sivakumar, though he won by more than half a lakh vote, could secure only 38 per cent of the votes. (In 2009, when Shashi Tharoor bagged nearly 45 per cent of votes, the presence of A Neelalohithadasan Nadar as BSP candidate had neutralised the BJP presence and had rendered the contest a bipolar one.)
Nonetheless, it has to be conceded that for a party to win a triangular contest it is not necessary to corner 40 per cent of the votes. Even a much lower share will be more than enough. Congress's Shashi Tharoor, for instance, had won in 2014 with only 34 per cent of the votes.
So, can the BJP make history even without the “40 per cent magic”. On the face of it, the voting pattern this time gives both the Congress and the BJP an edge. Such an assumption is based on the fact that the biggest surge in voting when compared to 2014 was witnessed in four segments that favour either the BJP or the Congress: Kazhakuttam (5.62 per cent surge), Nemom (5.15 per cent), Kovalam (4.93 per cent) and Neyyattinkara (4.86 per cent). Electoral trends and common wisdom say that Nemom and Kazhakuttom are pro-BJP, and Kovalam and Neyyattinkara pro-Congress.
Thiruvananthapuram and Vattiyoorkavu are the other two segments that had seen an over 4 per cent increase in voter turnout. In these two segments, it is said that all three – BJP, CPI and the Congress – have reasonable clout. In Thiruvananthapuram, because it includes a long stretch of the coast, Congress traditionally holds the edge during a Lok Sabha poll.
The highest swell among all segments in the constituency is in Kazhakuttam and Nemom. These are also the segments where the BJP led by huge margins of 7,609 and 18,046 votes in 2014. However, analysts feel that the BJP advantage in Kazhakuttam will probably be diminished by a late mobilisation of the Left. Kazhakutam MLA and minister Kadakampally Surendran had taken it up as a mission to revive the Left fortunes in the segment in the final stages of the campaign. This leaves Nemom, which is indisputably the most saffronised region in Thiruvananthapuram constituency, as the only segment that the BJP can bank on fully.
As for the Congress, the voter interest in Kovalam and Neyyattinkara could turn out to be overwhelmingly in its favour. Such a prognosis is founded on the theory of a strong Christian and Nadar consolidation in favour of the Congress in the constituency.
“The notion that the BJP would win, set in motion by news channel surveys, seems to have galvanised the minorities to come out in large numbers. The Church had launched a silent campaign in coastal areas to convince the voters of the need to stem the rise of the BJP,” an associate professor of politics, who requested anonymity, said.
Here are some figures that would further Tharoor's chances. Though the BJP stronghold Nemom has a sizeable number of voters (1.41 lakh), Kovalam and Parassala that tend towards the UDF have even more, 1.60 lakh and 1.64 lakh respectively. There are also credible talks that in areas with strong minority presence like Parassala and Neyyattinkara there has been a shift of traditional LDF votes to the Congress candidate. This can further give Tharoor a boost. (Parassala and Neyyattinkara had stood by Tharoor last time, and then too, there were strong rumours that Left voters, fearing a BJP win, had opted for Tharoor over the CPI candidate.)
The winner: Given the fear of the minorities, the surge in coastal votes and the Left's attempt to thwart the BJP rise in Kazhakuttam and Vattiyoorkavu, it looks like Shashi Tharoor will have the last laugh.