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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: BJP desperate for breakthrough in bipolar Kerala despite obstacles

Though a large section of traditional Congress and CPM voters have started thinking of an alternative, various moves of the BJP and Sangh Parivar like the Citizenship Amendment Act, Uniform Civil Code and attempts to dig the Hindu connections from the past to the masjids have not gone down well with the secular mindset of Kerala society, cutting across religions.
Last Updated : 23 April 2024, 03:10 IST
Last Updated : 23 April 2024, 03:10 IST

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Thiruvananthapuram: As Kerala goes to polls on April 26, the crucial question doing the rounds is whether the BJP will open account to the Lok Sabha from any of the 20 seats in the southern state.

Unlike the usual bipolar politics involving the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), the past few elections have seen the BJP emerging as a key player and this time the party is putting up a strong fight in at least five seats, including Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur.

On the other hand, the Congress and the CPM, both part of the I.N.D.I.A bloc, are involved in an intense battle for supremacy in the state. While the Congress aims to win maximum seats from Kerala as part of its efforts to return to power in the country, the CPM is also trying to win maximum seats from the lone state where the party is in power, so as to remain nationally relevant and protect its ‘national party’ status.

Senior leaders like Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal, Union ministers of state Rajeev Chandrasekhar, V Muraleedharan, former ministers K K Shailaja and Thomas Isaac are in the fray.

The BJP is trying to cash in on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-development and welfare initiatives with the ‘Modiyude guarantee’ tagline, and the anti-incumbency factors against the LDF. This electioneering also witnessed Modi’s frequent campaigns in Kerala, which emphasises the party’s increasing focus in the south Indian state.

Though a large section of traditional Congress and CPM voters have started thinking of an alternative, various moves of the BJP and Sangh Parivar like the Citizenship Amendment Act, Uniform Civil Code and attempts to dig the Hindu connections from the past to the masjids have not gone down well with the secular mindset of Kerala society, cutting across religions.

The saffron camp’s efforts to make inroads into the Christian vote bank, which comes to over 18 per cent of state’s population, too, seem to have not yielded the desired results as church leaders are openly expressing concerns over attempts to sabotage the communal harmony as well as measures like curtailing foreign donations to church-run charity institutions.

The concerns of the Muslim community towards the Centre’s policies also are a major hindrance for the saffron party as Kerala has around 27 per cent Muslims. The controversial speech delivered by Modi in Rajasthan could further distance the Muslims of Kerala from the saffron party. Congress and CPM leaders in Kerala, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, have strongly criticised Modi.

The chances of a strong consolidation of minority and other anti-BJP votes could not be ruled out in Kerala. There is also speculation of Congress - CPM undercurrents to achieve the common objective of ensuring BJP’s defeat.

Though both Congress and CPM are trying to cash in on the minority vote banks by highlighting CAA and Manipur violence, the Congress has a better chance to gain from it as they are more stronger than the Left parties at the national level.

The Congress is mainly trying to cash-in on the alleged attempts of the BJP and Sangh Parivar to sabotage the nation’s secularism as well as the anti-incumbency against the Pinarayi Vijayan government. Though the Congress had a sweeping victory of 19 seats in 2019, the factors that favoured it then are absent now, especially the general feeling that a government led by Rahul will come to power.

The grand old party also believes that the shift of many of its leaders to BJP, like former Union defence minister A K Antony’s son Anil K Antony and former chief minister K Karunakaran’s daughter Padmaja Venugopal, won’t make any impact as the two are not influential leaders.

Despite being partners of the I.N.D.I.A bloc at the national level, Pinarayi Vijayan and Rahul Gandhi are engaged even in personal attacks against each other. It seems to be Vijayan’s strategy of getting a reasonable number of seats for CPM in Kerala so as to counter the criticisms of anti-incumbency against his government as well as the personal allegation over his daughter’s shady deals with a mining firm.

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Published 23 April 2024, 03:10 IST

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