The BJP, which had been eyeing an increase in seats to at least 5, as desired by Modi-Shah duo, ended up losing its lone seat in the outgoing assembly and saw its vote share go down from 15.01% to 12.4% in the just-concluded Kerala election. In the outgoing assembly, the BJP held the Nemom seat in Thiruvananthapuram, which was conceded by former Sikkim governor Kummanam Rajasekharan, who contested this time, to the same man his predecessor had defeated in 2016.
The saffron party has been consistently increasing its vote-share in consecutive polls, giving the party leadership a ground to celebrate, although the party has never won a seat in the assembly or Lok Sabha, except for 2016 poll. It was in this context that the central leadership asked the state party to increase the number of seats. In fact, Prime Minister Modi is understood to have told the state leadership that percentage increases in the total votes were not good enough, but it had to increase the number of seats, at least to five this time.
The dismal show has the state party leadership scurrying for cover and it is believed the central leadership is upset and this could see heads roll in the days to come. K Surendran, the relatively young state party president was handpicked by the central leadership to lead an aggressive drive to grow the party’s roots in the state. An upbeat Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday presented to media a detailed analysis of the BJP’s performance and alleged large scale trading of votes in favour of the UDF as the reason for the steep decline in the party’s vote share.
He claimed the impressive LDF victory was despite the BJP-UDF deal and attributed the lower margin of victory for several LDF candidates as well as the defeat of others, including fisheries minister Mercykutty in Kundara, who lost to the Congress candidate. Vijayan pointed out that the BJP’s vote-share declined in 90 of the 140 seats, which meant the party polled its votes in favour of the UDF candidates rather than vote for its own candidates.
This was clear trading and it was organised by some UDF leaders, whose confidence of a victory, as per to Vijayan, was based on the calculations. But he said the secular-minded voters decided the government’s welfare programmes must continue, frustrating the UDF design. The CM cited cases where the strategy worked. For instance, in Sultanbathery, the UDF candidate won by 11,822 votes and there was a drop of 12,488 in BJP’s vote-share.
In the prestigious Pala seat, where Kerala Congress-M chairman Jose K Mani lost to his UDF rival Mani C Kappan, handing down a highly embarrassing defeat for the ruling front and the Kerala Congress faction that crossed over to LDF ahead of the poll, there was a loss of 14,000 votes in the BJP share.
The UDF candidate won the seat by over 4,000 votes. Vijayan claimed the 2016 success of BJP, which helped the party win the Nemom seat, was also the result of such vote trading between UDF and the saffron party.
Earlier in the day, Vijayan drove to Raj Bhavan around noon and submitted his resignation letter to Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. He will continue as the CM till the new government is sworn in.