THE BJP-BDJS combine or the NDA in Kerala finished with just one seat while cornering over 14 per cent vote share. The real impact, however, was in the way it dented the UDF’s prospects. “We got 14 per cent votes and the BDJS, a three-month-old party, got over 30,000 votes in many seats. Is that not a victory?” asked BDJS mentor and SNDP chief, Vellappally Natesan. He also claimed that the alliance forced a triangular contest in many seats which were won by the LDF.
Natesan has a point. Take the 13 assembly constituencies in Thrissur district. In the 2011 assembly elections, the BJP polled 6,000- 11,000 votes in the seats. The LDF won seven of the seats while the UDF got six. This time, the LDF won all but one seat in the district — it lost the lone seat by just 43 votes.
A significant feature of the results in Thrissur constituencies is that the NDA polled 23,000-37,000 plus votes, barring in Ollur, where it polled only about 17,000 votes — 10,000 votes up from last year. For instance, in Kodungalloor, the NDA won a little over 6,000 votes in the last assembly polls, but the BDJS nominee polled over 32,000 votes. Elsewhere, in Kuttanad in Alappuzha district, while the BJP candidate had won over 4,000 votes in 2011, the BDJS nominee finished with 33,000 plus votes this time.
In total, the BDJS, contesting in 37 seats, got over four per cent of the total valid votes, though it failed to advance in Alappuzha and Kollam districts, where the SNDP is organisationally strong. This significant vote share, in all probability, has a lot to do with its alliance with the BJP, but the combine has established that the 16 per cent vote it won in the local polls late last year was no fluke. It is more likely that this is the true strength of the BJP in Kerala. In the past assembly elections, the BJP vote has rarely crossed six per cent.
It may be difficult to make an accurate guess of who lost the votes to the NDA. Two trends were, however, visible. One, in one of the most political elections in recent times, the Left was polling all its votes. However, in many constituencies, the UDF lost votes to the NDA. Local observers could point out that the crowd at NDA meetings was often made up of people who had earlier stood with the UDF. Two, the NDA’s campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union ministers, and coordinated by the RSS machinery, helped the front to consolidate its base, but this also forced a consolidation of the anti-BJP votes, especially of Muslims, who preferred the Left over the UDF.
One takeway is that the BJP or the NDA still does not have sufficient votes to win an assembly seat in Kerala. The Nemom win is not indicative of the BJP base but more a reflection of the acceptability of its mild-mannered candidate, O Rajagopal. The big question is if the NDA can improve the 16 per cent vote share in Kerala. The UDF, dominated by communitarian outfits like the Muslim League and the Kerala Congress, provides a leeway for the BJP to build a narrative about minority appeasement. This possibility is exhausted under the Left, whose base is predominantly people of Hindu origin.