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In NDA’s Kerala rout, a steep fall in BDJS fortunes

Voting patterns in most of the 21 constituencies, from where the BDJS contested as an NDA ally, indicate that backward Hindu voters abandoned the BJP in large numbers.

Natesan said the NDA does not exist as political front in Kerala. (PTI/ Representational)

The steep fall in the vote share of Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), the political arm of backward Hindu Ezhava community outfit Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, may have largely contributed to the BJP-led NDA’s poor show in the Kerala assembly elections.

Voting patterns in most of the 21 constituencies, from where the BDJS contested as an NDA ally, indicate that backward Hindu voters abandoned the BJP in large numbers. In many of these seats, the LDF emerged victorious or improved its vote share compared to the previous elections in 2016.

The Ezhava community has been traditionally a CPI (M) vote bank.

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SNDP Yogam general secretary and BDJS patron Vellappally Natesan said, “Obviously, the BDJS votes have gone to the LDF this time. That is why the LDF could win 99 out of 140 seats. The Ezhava and other backward communities have stood behind the LDF like a rock. Such communities realised that only the LDF can prevent the growing influence of IUML in state politics. Whenever the Congress comes to power, the IUML would be calling the shots in the UDF.”

Read |BJP back to ground ‘zero’ in Kerala, temple no answer to party prayers

Natesan said the NDA does not exist as political front in Kerala. “The BJP has lost all allies except the BDJS. The BJP has hijacked the NDA in Kerala. They don’t take allies into confidence in Kerala as there is no unity. The upper caste Hindus in the BJP would not vote for candidates from Hindu backward communities,’’ he said.

BJP state president K Surendran was not available for comment. But a senior leader said in the constituencies from where the BDJS contested, only BJP votes were polled in favour of the NDA this time. “The BJP did not benefit from BDJS. That party’s votes went to the CPI (M) in several constituencies as part of a pre-poll deal. LDF won 40-odd seats with a margin less than 5,000 each. In such seats, the BDJS votes or Ezhava votes went in favour of the LDF,’’ said the leader.

Since 2016, the BJP has had a strained relation with BDJS, which often threatened to walk out of the NDA. In the run-up to this year’s elections, the BDJS had suffered a split. While the party contested 21 seats, senior ally BJP contested in 115 seats.

While the BJP vote share this time was 11.20 per cent, marginally higher than the 10.53 per cent it recorded in the 2016 polls, the BDJS got 1.10 per cent vote share, down from 3.93 per cent in the previous assembly elections. This pushed down the NDA vote share to 12.39 per cent this time – a significant dip from 14.93 per cent in 2016.

Incidentally, the NDA’s 2016 performance, which saw its vote share grow from 6.6 per cent in 2011, was driven by two factors: it was the first assembly elections in Kerala after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister and, secondly, the BJP had an ally in the newly-floated Hindu party BDJS.This time, although the BJP focused on 30 out of 140 assembly seats, with senior leaders contesting from there, it failed to get any success. The party could come second only in nine seats, in many of them with a reduced vote share.

It was worse for the BDJS, which saw a showed drastic fall in votes in the seats it contested compared to the 2016 results. In many such seats, the CPI (M) emerged as the gainer – and winner.

In some constituencies, the castes of Congress and CPM candidates appeared to have been a critical factor for the BJP’s fate. In Kunnamangalam, both LDF and UDF had Muslims candidates in 2016, while the BJP had senior leader C K Padmanabhan, who got 18.13 per cent of the votes polled. This time, the Congress fielded a Hindu, and the BJP’s vote share dipped to 14.28.

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