Will the BJP open its account in Kerala?

Thiruvananthapuram, March 15: Will the lotus finally bloom in Kerala? The BJP is supremely confident that at least one of its candidates will get elected to the Lok Sabha from the state this time.

Kerala, one of the three Communist strongholds in the country, has never elected anyone from the Bharatiya Janata Party to the Lok Sabha or even to the state assembly. The situation is about to change, says state BJP president V. Muraleedharan.

“The Modi effect seen all over India has had its effect in Kerala too,” Muraleedharan told IANS. “Modi drew immense crowds and appreciation when he visited the Sivagiri Mutt (of social reformer Sree Narayana Guru) and the Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt. This is going to benefit us hugely.” (Read: 77-Varanasi: Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency fact file)

He added that the biggest Dalit group in the state, the Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha, which has traditionally supported the Left, had invited Modi as its chief guest at an event. “I don’t want to speculate on what’s in store for us. But we are upbeat and there is going to be good news, finally,” Muraleedharan said.

In 2009, the BJP contested all but one of the 20 parliamentary seats in the state but — once again — failed to open its innings.

But the BJP’s appeal has been slowly on the rise in the state which sharply swings between the Marxist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-headed United Democratic Front (UDF).

The margins of victory and loss in Kerala are among the narrowest — such is the polarization between the two main political fronts.

In the 2006 assembly polls, the BJP got a share of 6.15 percent. In the 2009 Lok Sabha battle, it rose to 7.31 percent but fell to 6.03 percent in the 2011 assembly election.

In 2009, the UDF secured 46.47 percent of votes and won 16 Lok Sabha seats while the LDF bagged 43.91 percent of votes and the remaining four seats.

But in the local bodies polls of 2010, the BJP almost doubled the number of seats — from 550 in 2005 to more than 970 seats. BJP candidates finished second in more than 1,000 seats.

The one BJP leader who has often looked a possible winner — but never won — is the veteran O. Rajagopal, 84, who has been contesting elections for two decades.

He was a minister in the central government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
This time too, Rajagopal is pitted from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency. In all probability, he will take on his more glamorous Congress opponent Shashi Tharoor, the 2009 winner.

The Left candidate there will be a doctor by profession, Bennet Abraham.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Rajagopal finished a close third in Thiruvananthapuram with 29.86 percent of all votes polled.

In the 2005 by-election, his party colleague C.K. Padmanabhan’s vote share dropped to 4.83 percent in the same constituency. This rose to 11.4 percent in 2009 when P.K. Krishnadas was the BJP candidate.

Another Lok Sabha constituency where the BJP could put up a challenge is Kasargode, which borders Mangalore in Karnataka.