New Delhi: The BJP secured 10 per cent or more votes on nine Lok Sabha seats in Kerala in 2014 but barring Thiruvananthapuram, it came nowhere near even the victory mark. However, in 2019, riding on the Sabarimala sentiment, the party sees a realistic chance for itself on at least four seats — Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Pathanamthitta and Kasargod.
An analysis of the 2014 Lok Sabha results show the party just stopped short of opening its account in the state when its candidate O Rajagopal came second against Shashi Tharoor of the Congress in Thiruvananthapuram. Rajagopal had polled 32.09 per cent votes while Tharoor had got 34.09 per cent.
This time around, the BJP has fielded former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan from Thiruvananthapuram, who is putting up a strong fight in the post-Sabararimala environment. LDF candidate C Divakaran is a popular Minister, making it a high-profile contest as all three candidates have strong presence.
The BJP is sensing a chance in Pathanamthitta as well which was the hotbed of the Sabarimala agitation against the SC decision to allow entry of menstruating women into the temple ending the age-old tradition. The BJP has fielded K Surendran, who spearheaded the protests last year, from Pathanamthitta. The party had got 15.95 per cent votes on the seat in 2014, one of the highest after Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod.
The Congress has fielded sitting MP Anto Antony, who is also a popular face. He had secured 41.19 per cent votes in 2014.
But it will be an uphill task for the BJP as past results show in Kerala the winning candidates have mostly got 40 per cent votes barring in a few seats like Thiruvananthapuram where Shashi Tharoor got considerably less.
The BJP is banking on the polarisation of Hindu votes to make an impact in Kerala, dominated by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF). The party’s vote share across the state was around 10 per cent, which went up to around 14 per cent in the 2016 Assembly elections.
The BJP has tied up with Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a rightwing party, which is contesting from Waynad against Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Alathur, Idukki and Mavelikkara. Kerala Congress (T), another BJP ally in the state, is contesting from Kottayam. In 2014, the Congress had won 8 seats while its partners IUML had won 2 and KECM 1. The CPI-M got 5 seats, ILDF won 2 and CPI got 1. RSP got one.