The BJP has created a history of sorts in Kerala by winning a seat in the assembly for the first time by coming second in eight other constituencies with a voting score of 17 percent. This, in essence, makes the BJP-led NDA a potential third force which can very well emerge as a major political force in the state in the coming days. The BJP’s growth in Kerala is almost similar to that in Assam and West Bengal.
This round, the aggressive campaign of the party was combined with its successful coalition with the BDJS, a political formation mainly representing the community with a 23 per cent share in the population, and some other smaller groups including the Adivasi leader who contested from Sultan Batheri in Calicut district.
The victorious BJP candidate is the veteran party leader O Rajagopal, a former Union Minister. He won the Nemam seat with a convincing margin of over 8,700 votes from this constituency situated in the state capital.
The BJP lost the seat Manjeswaram in North Kerala, Kasarkode district, by just 87 votes. Here the losing BJP candidate K. Surendran has demanded a recount. Manjeswaram has been a traditional BJP stronghold where the party stood second in the last election also.
The BJP’s showing this round was so sterling that in over ten constituencies, the party managed to corner more than 40,000 votes. The constituencies where the BJP stood second include Manjeswaram, Kasarkode, Palakkad, Sultan Batheri, Malampuzha, Udumbanchola, Vattiyurkavu, and Kazhakoottam.
In another 20 constituencies, the BJP and its allies together scored over 25,000 votes. The fact that the BJP with its allies have got over 20 per cent vote, with BJP alone scoring 16.85 per cent has proved that the party has come to be accepted as a third alternative to the UDF and the LDF. But this success the NDA has got in Kerala does not commensurate with the kind of mass response it evoked during the campaign.
The rallies addressed by the BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party President Amit Shah and other leaders attracted an unprecedented response. The five rallies addressed by Narendra Modi had no parallel in the state political history.
The BJP was in the forefront in campaign and propaganda and its presence was felt at every nook and corner of the state. It was the success of this campaign and the tremendous response that it created which gave the impression that the party was bound to win a good number of seats. The BJP candidates were in triangular contests with the other two fronts in almost 50 constituencies.
The BJP’s entry in the Kerala assembly is historic because the entire focus of the two Fronts was to stop the BJP from entering the assembly. Senior Congress leader A K Antony repeatedly said that BJP can enter the assembly only with a visitor’s pass.
It was sweet revenge for O Rajagopal when he retorted after his victory to A K Antony that he will be entering the assembly with a full support of the people of Kerala.
Towards the end of the campaign, it was the BJP that set the agenda for political discourse. Both the Fronts in their channel discussions and pronouncements made it clear that their collective primary agenda was to stop the BJP from entering the assembly.
To buttress this they even claimed that Kerala had a hallowed secular tradition which will not digest the presence of the BJP in the assembly and to stop it from happening, they would even go to the extent of minor local level adjustments.
It was clear that essentially there was no difference between the LDF and the UDF. For instance, one faction of the Muslim League is with the LDF, another faction with the UDF. One faction of the Kerala Congress is with UDF and two other factions of Kerala Congress with LDF.
One faction of RSP is with UDF the other with LDF. Similarly, one faction of JDU is with LDF and the other faction with UDF. And these splinter parties have been changing their roles in election after election.
Likewise, there is no difference in the economic policy of the two Fronts and both compete with each other for pampering and appeasing the Muslim and Christian communities.
Political observers feel that this time the LDF won more seats because it was able to attract more Muslim and Christian votes away from the UDF. It was the consolidation of the minority votes behind the LDF that led to its victory. Political observers say that the vociferous and successful propaganda of the NDA created great anxiety in the minority community.
Because a number of the anti-BJP campaigns like the beef festival, a campaign against the central government action against anti-national, elements in JNU, award wapasi and the debate on intolerance, have all been successfully utilized by the Left to create an anti-BJP psychology in the minority communities.
By these, they were able to project themselves as the champion of Christian-Muslim sectarian interest. There is also a theory that one more round without power in Kerala would have decimated the CPM in the state and quickened the BJP growth. To prevent this from happening, these communities sided with the LDF, it is said. In any case, the UDF had lost its image and credibility with all sections of the society because of sex and corruption scandals.
In any case, the UDF had lost its image and credibility with all sections of the society because of sex and corruption scandals.
There was clearly a last minute shift of vote with the idea of defeating the BJP where the party looked certain to win. The BJP is now looking at the future potential from what it gained in this election.
The party was not able to entirely take the 22 percent of the Nair community to its fold, though, the majority of this community used to traditionally support the BJP.
A section of the Christian community was also eager to come closer to the BJP. However, the BJP’s tie-up with the backward BDJS created a buzz in the political circuit. In terms of the vote, this may not have been a big asset. But it helped hugely in creating the atmospheric.
The unique nature of Kerala politics is that the difference in the vote share between the winning and the losing side, i.e the LDF and UDF has traditionally been less than two per cent.
This time, it has widened to 3.5 per cent. Still, a third front with a 20 per cent vote share has the potential to re-draw the political map in the state. Significantly, the spread of the NDA vote is so well-entrenched that it covers all parts of the state.
The winning LDF has got 91 seats against 46 of the UDF. It is many years since the two Fronts have had such a huge difference in seat share. Analysts say that the NDA has been able to chip away the major chunk of the Hindu vote away from the UDF but it was not so successful in taking away the traditional Left minded Hindu votes from the LDF.
The Kerala Congress, which mainly represents the Christian community is truncated and its strength has been reduced by half. The Muslim League, the major partner of the UDF, also suffered a setback, though the number of seats it lost is only two, which had come down from 20 to 18. The Kerala Congress faction at one point was eager to tie up with the BJP.
Like in Assam, where the party had only five seats in the last election, has today emerged the ruling party, by a successful combination of tact and strategy, NDA with its 20 per cent vote share has the capacity to make big inroads in Kerala.
Since 1968, when the Jansangh held its first all-India conference at Kozhikode when Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya was made party President, has been laboring to make Jansangh and later the BJP a major force in Kerala. In successive polls, it drew blank.
Today the BJP is ruling in a number of municipalities and panchayats in Kerala and finally it has succeeded in opening its account in the assembly.