Why did Sabarimala stir favour Congress? Kerala's BJP unit dumbfounded

Why did Sabarimala stir favour Congress? Kerala's BJP unit dumbfounded
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Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala BJP unit, which was betting on victory in two seats, winning 20 per cent of the votes and getting lead in 10 assembly constituencies in the Lok Sabha polls, has been dealt with a severe blow.

The party did not even manage to win a single seat despite the atmosphere being conducive for a verdict in favour of the BJP. Several factors had given the edge to the BJP, including the Sabarimala stir.

Former Kerala BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan, who resigned his Mizoram governor post to contest in Thiruvananthapuram, emerged second by garnering more than three lakh votes. This was BJP’s best performance in Kerala though the party was betting on nothing but victory in this constituency.

However, Shobha Surendran in Attingal, K Surendran in Pathanamthitta, C Krishnakumar in Palakkad and Suresh Gopi in Thrissur were able to win more than two lakh votes, increasing the party's vote share in these constituencies.

Suresh Gopi, who had campaigned for only 17 days, won 2,93,822 votes, an increase of 1,91,141 votes than the 2014 polls.

Though Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam won only 1,37,749 votes in Ernakulam, he was able to better the numbers from 2014. Dr K S Radhakrishnan got 1,86,278 votes in Alappuzha, thrice more than the previous polls.

Among assembly constituencies, the BJP was able to lead only in Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram. The vote share increased from 10 to 16 per cent.

The Sabarimala impact on polls

The BJP was hoping that the agitations over Sabarimala women's entry would work in its favour. More than Narendra Modi's development plans, the BJP focussed on Sabarimala during the poll campaigns. The state unit had informed the Centre that it would be able to make gains out of the widespread dissatisfaction among the Hindu community over the issue.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah had extensively campaigned in Kerala, proclaiming that they would protect the customs and beliefs of the faithful, it did not transform into votes.

The Congress-led UDF was able to win a good chunk of the majority votes along with the minorities in constituencies that saw close three-cornered contests, such as Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur.

The BJP's agitation in Pathanamthitta over Sabarimala did not yield the expected results. Exit polls had predicted K Surendran's victory in Pathanamthitta, but he was pushed to the third position. A clear indication that Surendran's jail term did not create much of a sympathy wave.

Even in Hindu stronghold areas of Aranmula, the BJP was found to be trailing. The BJP's performance was disappointing even in Poonjar, where newly joined NDA ally PC George’s party had a strong clout.

The state unit will now have to explain to the national leadership on how the Sabarimala stir ended up favouring the Congress. Criticisms have also been raised that the party was not able to alleviate the ‘Modi fear’ among the minority communities. NDA ally Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) too could not put up any stellar performances. Even the RSS that was part of candidate selection and campaign techniques is at the receiving end of criticisms. Indications are strong that the BJP state unit would undergo a major restructuring.

Kannanthanam, Thushar Vellappally lose deposit

Thirteen NDA candidates, including Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam and BDJS leader Thushar Vellappally, lost the deposit money.

C Krishnakumar (Palakkad), Suresh Gopi (Thrissur), PC Thomas (Kottayam), KS Radhakrishnan (Alappuzha), K Surendran (Pathanamthitta), Shobha Surendran (Attingal) and Kummanam Rajasekharan (Thiruvananthapuram) were able to get back the deposit. Candidates who win one-sixth of the total valid votes, will get back the money.

NDA candidate in Kannur C K Padmanabhan got the least number of votes (68509), followed by Wayanad candidate Thushar Vellappally (78816).

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