Elections

The Legacy Is Gone: Kerala Opens Its Doors To BJP; Tamil Nadu Looks Out Too

Congress reclaims glory in Kerala with sweeping victory, but BJP's triumph highlights needs for introspection for both LDF and UDF

PTI Photo
BJP candidate from Thrissur constituency Suresh Gopi celebrates as he leads in the Lok Sabha elections. PTI Photo
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Kerala's long-standing reputation as a 'BJP-mukt state' has been overturned, marking a significant shift in its political landscape. Suresh Gopi, the former Rajya Sabha member and actor turned politician, scripted history with a resounding victory in the Thrissur Lok Sabha constituency, securing a remarkable margin of 75,686 votes. This outcome sent shockwaves through both the LDF and UDF camps.

A closer analysis reveals that Gopi successfully garnered a substantial portion of votes, even from traditional Congress supporters, as evidenced by the significant drop of 86,965 votes for the latter compared to their 2019 performance. Conversely, VS Sunil Kumar, CPI leader and former minister representing LDF, managed to increase their vote count by 16,916 compared to the previous election. This bolstered the Left's argument that Congress bears responsibility for Kerala's departure from its 'BJP-mukt' status.

However, the Congress in Kerala reclaimed its former glory by clinching victory in 18 out of the 20 seats. This outcome serves as a crucial lesson for both the LDF and UDF, highlighting the need for introspection and strategic recalibration in light of evolving political dynamics.

The growth of BJP’s vote share in Kerala

Though it was generally anticipated that Suresh Gopi would make an impressive performance, even the BJP camp was taken aback by his resounding victory. After the polling, one of the campaign managers of the BJP expressed confidence that Gopi would secure a victory margin of around 35,000 votes. However, the actual outcome far exceeded these expectations. From the outset of the counting process, Suresh Gopi established a commanding lead over his opponents, maintaining a substantial advantage throughout.

CPI’s popular leader Sunil Kumar failed to narrow the gap with Gopi at any point during the counting. Throughout all rounds of counting, Suresh Gopi consistently held a lead of 10,000 to 20,000 votes, solidifying his dominance. The UDF candidate, K Muraledharan, son of the late Congress leader K Karunakaran, experienced a humiliating defeat, landing in third place with a vote share of 30%.

Beyond the triumph in Thrissur, it's imperative to note the BJP's significant strides in Kerala's political landscape in terms of vote share. The party's vote share surged to 16 per cent from the 13 per cent garnered in 2019, marking a notable increase. Despite facing setbacks in the 2021 Assembly elections where their vote share dipped to 11 per cent, the BJP has rebounded. The cumulative vote share of the NDA, including key ally BDJS (Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena), stands at approximately 18 per cent, a substantial stride forward for the coalition. BDJS, stemming from SNDP, the community organisation of the Ezhva caste, traditionally seen as a stronghold of the left in Kerala, has added some weight to the NDA's electoral fortunes.

In Thiruvananthapuram, where sitting MP Shashi Tharoor secured a hard-fought victory, BJP's Rajiv Chandrashekhar posed a formidable challenge. Initially, Chandrashekhar surged ahead in the early hours of counting, raising hopes of BJP clinching two seats in the state. However, as the final round of counting, which included coastal area votes, unfolded, Tharoor staged a comeback, setting victory by a narrow margin of 16,077 votes. Chandrashekhar, the Union Minister and owner of the prominent Malayalam Television Channel Asianet rattled both the LDF and UDF by securing 35.5 per cent of the votes—a significant gain for BJP compared to the 2019 tally when Kummanam Rajasekharan managed to gather 31 per cent.

Notably, the erosion of votes from the UDF is also evident in Thiruvananthapuram. Tharoor's victory margin decreased from 99,989 votes or 41 per cent in 2019 to 37 per cent of the total votes polled this time. On the other hand, the LDF maintained its vote share, securing 25.7 per cent of the votes, equivalent to its 2019 tally of 25.6 per cent. This underscores the shift of votes from Congress to BJP in Thiruvananthapuram.

Apart from these two constituencies where BJP targeted a victory, the party also managed to make substantial growth in a few other constituencies as well. For example, BJP/NDA gained an average of 25 per cent votes across ten Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. In eight constituencies including Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur, BJP improved its vote share gaining 20 per cent and more. In Pathanamthitta, where Sabarimala is located, Anil Antony-the son of Congress leader and former Chief Minister A K Antony – the new entrant to the party gained 25 per cent votes despite the Left’s social media handles posing him as a sorry figure by showering trolls against him.

More worrying for LDF and UDF is that BJP landed in the first place across 11 Assembly segments and in second place across 7 which is the first time in the electoral history of the State. In 2019, BJP managed to secure second place only in seven Assembly segments and nowhere the party could win the first place.

No seats in Tamil Nadu but substantial growth in vote share

Tamil Nadu's electoral outcome was largely anticipated to favour the DMK alliance, and indeed, the results unfolded as expected with no surprises. BJP had set its sights on winning at least two seats, particularly Coimbatore, where party Chief Annamali contested. While these aspirations were dashed, the BJP experienced a significant surge in vote share. The party secured 10.69 per cent of the votes polled, marking a substantial increase from its 2019 tally of 3.5 per cent. This boost contributed to the NDA's overall vote share rising to 18.2 per cent.

The electoral landscape in Tamil Nadu has traditionally been dominated by a fierce contest between the DMK and AIADMK since 1967. However, it is now evident that BJP has emerged as a formidable third force in the state, especially in light of the AIADMK's dismal performance, failing to secure a single seat. This marks a significant development in Tamil Nadu's political dynamics.

Out of the 23 constituencies it vied for, the BJP clinched the second position in nine—Coimbatore, Nilgiris, Chennai South, Chennai Central, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Tiruvallur, Vellore, and Madurai. Furthermore, BJP's allies, PMK and DMDK, secured second place in Dharmapuri and Virudhunagar constituencies, respectively.

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Though no seats won, the increase in vote share gives a tremendous level of confidence for the party to gear up to the 2026 Assembly polls. In Kerala too, the BJP camp is rejuvenated and aiming to open account in the next Assembly election as well.

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