The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rode once again on a Narendra Modi wave Thursday to return to power at the Centre. But in Kerala, where it has long strived to win a Lok Sabha seat on it’s own, the saffron party’s efforts have proved to be futile once again.
In Thiruvananthapuram, where the party rested its biggest hopes of winning and where even exit polls by television networks in Kerala predicted a BJP victory, its candidate, K Rajasekharan, lost by over 1 lakh votes to Congress sitting MP Shashi Tharoor. The news is particularly disappointing for the BJP as the margin of defeat was 15,000 votes in 2014. And while in 2014, the BJP led in four of the seven Assembly segments that form the constituency, this year it was able to lead in just one segment – Nemom, the seat it won in the 2016 Assembly elections.
The results in Pathanamthitta—a constituency where the BJP was hoping to capitalise on anger over the Sabarimala issue—were also disappointing for the party. The face of its agitation, K Surendran, trailed in the third position and eventually lost to Anto Antony, the sitting Congress MP, by 90,000 votes. Veena George, the LDF MLA from Aranmula, finished second. Surendran led just once in the early rounds of counting, but faded away as it progressed to areas which favoured the Congress. The BJP candidate finished second in just one Assembly segment – Adoor – and trailed behind the LDF and UDF candidates in the six other segments.
In the Thrissur and Palakkad constituencies in central Kerala, where the BJP was hoping to do well and secure a respectable second position, the party did not fare well. In Thrissur, BJP candidate Suresh Gopi was able to improve his party’s tally from 2014 by nearly 2 lakh votes. However, he trailed behind the UDF and LDF candidates.
In Palakkad, the only municipality that the BJP rules on its own in the state, the party ended up in the third position behind VK Sreekandan of the UDF and MB Rajesh of the LDF. The party’s vote share in the seat improved from 1,36,587 votes in 2014 to 2,18,556 votes in 2019, but it wasn’t enough.
Ahead of vote counting, state leaders of the BJP had expressed fears of cross-voting between the LDF and UDF, especially in Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta. There were also rumours that traditional BJP votes could go to the UDF to prevent LDF from winning in its stronghold seats in the Malabar region.