In Kerala as the Left and Congress battle it out, will the BJP stand to gain?

The state of Kerala which goes to poll tomorrow on all its 20 parliamentary constituencies is also going to witness a triangular contest for power. Here the battle of the ballot is between the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Congress and the BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP). The BJP is desperate to increase its account in the state.

Kerala Lok Sabha Election

The 2019 elections are significant because for the first time the BJP is hoping to make inroads in the state in two seats. It is fielding Kerala BJP Chief KummanamRajasekharan against two time Congress MP ShashiTharoor from Thiruvananthapuram. On the other hand controversial BJP leader and state’s general secretary K Surendran is contesting from Pathanamthitta against sitting Congress MP Anto Antony and LDF candidate Veena George.

The Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s nomination from the Wayanad seat makes this a particularly important seat to follow this election. This is so because he is pitted in a direct contest with a candidate of the Left Democratic Front (LDF). There is no BJP candidate in the picture at Wayanad.

Of the twenty seats here, Thiruvananthapuram is especiallyexpected to see a “nail biting finish”. In ShashiTharoor’s own words, he is “astonished to see that the BJP has made as many inroads as they have in Thiruvananthapuram on the strength of Sabarimala issue alone”. Despite it’s progressive image, the state has seen the Sabarimala issue dividing the voters on religious lines with many feeling let down by the “left’s haste to implement the Sabarimala order.” After the Supreme Court passed an order allowing entry of women of all ages, several women had tried to enter the temple premises. They faced severe backlash from protesters organised by Sanghpariwar. 

This is also because the state constitutes of as many as 68% Hindus, of which 28% are Nairs.  Around 26.56 percent of the population are Muslims and 18.38 percent are Christians, according to the 2011 Census data.

Both the BJP and Congress (though with slightly differing positions) on the SC’s Sabarimalaverdict, milked the potential for polarisation among Hindu devotees. Despite the Election Commission order which asked political parties to refrain from making Sabarimala an election issue, Prime Minister Modi addressed a rally in Kozhikode on April 12 where he said “BJP will stand with devotees to protect traditions.”

Congress president Rahul Gandhi who was addressing a rally atPathanamthitta, said that people have the right to follow their religion and its practices and his party will never oppose that. An article in Scroll predicted that those who were upset with the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by CPI (M) over Sabarimala issue are more likely to vote for Congress than BJP.

Tharoor explained this behaviour thus, “The first [for BJP] was to file a review petition and get the Supreme Court to change its mind. They can also bring in a law to change and overturn the judgment. Or you use your authority and introduce an ordinance. But they didn’t do any of these. So I am surprised the BJP propaganda is so effective that it is reaching people when the question remains  what has the BJP done to deserve your support?’”

Another major issue before voters in the southern state were the floods that hit in August last year. One of the worst floods in Kerala history, over 300 people lost their lives. The LDF government, with chief minister, PinarayiVijayan at the helm has been especially appreciated for handling the situation efficiently and making the process corruption free.

Since its election in 2016, the LDF government has increased public spending in education, reviving public sector units and other welfare measures.

The state of Kerala has been a battleground for the left and centrist parties. Between the left and right, the conflict has been violent, leaving a trail of political murders over time. Political parties have made this a campaign issue on several occasions.

As per projections from most of the polls, it is the UDF that is set to win a majority of 20 seats in the state, though a few predictions have given the LDF a lead. This leaves the LDF in a bind, given the situation both here and in Bengal.



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