Kerala BJP pins hopes on bypolls; vote share looks up

Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shout slogans in Kerala (PTI Photo)

After its hopes of opening an account to the Lok Sabha from Kerala failed yet again, the BJP is now nurturing fresh dreams of the upcoming Kerala Assembly bypolls. An increase of around 3% in its vote share gives further impetus to the saffron party's hopes.

Bypolls are imminent in six Assembly constituencies owing to the death of two MLAs and victory of four sitting MLAs in the Lok Sabha polls. Among these, the BJP stood second in two seats in the 2016 Assembly polls — Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram and Manjeswaram in Kasaragod.

In Manjeswaram, the BJP missed a victory by just 89 votes. This Lok Sabha polls, BJP candidate in Kasargod, Ravisha Thanthri, came second in the Manjeswaram Assembly segment though he was pushed to the third in the overall tally of the Kasaragod Lok Sabha constituency.

Manjeswaram is going for bypoll as the 2016 winner, P B Abdul Razak of the Indian Union Muslim League, died recently. BJP's firebrand leader K Surendran, who contested from Pathanamthitta constituency in the Lok Sabha polls, was BJP's candidate from Manjeswaram in 2016. Though there are chances of Surendran being fielded again, even as Ravisha Thantri is also learnt to be eyeing the seat.

Vattiyoorkavu is going to the bypolls as sitting MLA K Muraleedharan of the Congress won in the Lok Sabha elections. BJP's former Kerala state president and former Mizoram governor Kummanam Rajasekharan came second at Vattiyoorkavu in the 2016 Assembly election. He lost by 7,622 votes. Kummanam contested against Congress's Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency this time.

The Vattiyoorkavu assembly segment comes under this constituency. Tharoor won with an over all majority of close to one lakh votes against Kummanam in the the Lok Sabha constituency. But Kummanam was behind Tharoor by just 2,836 votes in the Vattiyoorkavu assembly segment.

At present, the BJP has its first and only MLA in Kerala in O Rajagopal from Nemon constituency, who won from Thiruvananthapuram in 2016.

BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said that the party would give a tough fight in the upcoming bypolls.

Vote share improves

Nevertheless, the BJP is heaving a sigh of relief that it could increase its vote share in Kerala this time. In 2014, the BJP's votes share in Kerala was 10.33%. It increased to 12.93% this time. If the vote share of its coalition partners, BDJS and Kerala Congress (Thomas), is considered, the total would come to around 14% this time.

The BJP camps evaluate that the gain in vote share is obviously due to Hindu votes over the Sabarimala issue while the primary reason for not winning any seats were counter consolidation of minority community votes as well as crossvoting by Left Front and Congress to ensure BJP's defeat.

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