BJP Can Win Kerala, Here’s How

by Being Right - May 29, 2016 10:18 AM +05:30 IST
BJP Can Win Kerala, Here’s HowBJP flags/Getty Images
    • The BJP in Kerala is a decisive factor in nearly 30 of the 140 seats.
    • It can win or become the principal opposition in Kerala within 10 years if it takes the requisite steps.

A gruelling election season is over and CPM-led LDF won 91 seats unseating INC-led UDF. There was a strong wave of anti-incumbency and people voted out a corrupt, minority appeasing dispensation led by INC.

Some facts :

  •  Kerala has 140 assembly seats
  •  On an average 140,000 votes get polled per seat (fairly uniform distribution of population per seat unlike north Indian states)
  •  Total of 2 crore voters utilised their voting rights in this 2016 election
  •  Kerala has a demographics of 52 percent Hindus, 19 percent Christians and 27 percent Muslims
  •  Women outnumber men as the number of voters
  •  Being mostly between UDF and LDF, the alliance which wins approximately 45 percent of vote in the constituency romps home.

In the see-saw Kerala politics between the two alliances,the strong showing of BJP-led NDA in 2016 election was an important change. MSM journos have written reams on this but have just harped on three points:

  • 1. On BJP stitching together an alliance of likeminded parties for the first time
  • 2. On veteran Leader O Rajagopal winning the Nemom seat and BJP opening its account in Kerala legislative assembly
  • 3. BJP increasing its vote share from 5 percent to 11 percent.

But the structural changes that BJP brought in are deeper. This piece aims to put together some facts in that regard.

Fact#1 – Some quarters of media says it’s just a sympathy wave for veteran O Rajagopal because irrespective of high voltage campaign led by PM Narendra Modi, BJP ended up in just one seat. Yes only O Rajagopal won the seat. But the table below shows the performance by other BJP candidates scattered across 4 regions. Note that in 2011 Assembly elections, BJP had 0 wins and three 2nd positions

BJP Can Win Kerala, Here’s How

Fact # 2 - Out of the 140 seats, 39 seats had BJP contestants winning more than 20 percent of the popular vote. On an average 140,000 votes gets polled per seat. Back of the envelope calculations will show that 28 thousand votes in 2016 will guarantee you 20 percent of votes. In a bipolar contest, 45 percent votes can help in winning but in a tripolar contest between three equally strong contestants’ 30-33 percent votes is the magic cut-off mark. As you can see if not for the ‘tactical voting’, more of BJP MLAs would have won their seats.

BJP Can Win Kerala, Here’s How

Fact #3 – Some of the constituencies have seen unprecedented growth in BJP’s vote-share over 2011. In multiple constituencies INC was relegated to third spot. There are 30 plus seats in 2016 where BJP polled more than 28,000 votes and more than doubled its votes as compared to the 2011 elections.

BJP Can Win Kerala, Here’s How

Fact #4 – Due to the socio -eligious nature of Kerala, BJP performance has not been uniform. It has performed above par in some districts (Like Trivandrum, Kasargod, Trichur) and below par in others (Kannur, Ernakulam, Malappuram). A close look at the 11% vote share of BJP is necessary.

BJP managed to get around 21 lakh votes out of the 2 crore voters who voted in the Kerala elections, that translates to a vote share of 11 percent. Adding other NDA partners, the combined NDA vote share comes out to be 15.2 percent. That however, still cannot challenge the UDF and LDF who have approximately 40 percent vote share election after election. Sounds true right? Well, No.

  • 11percent vote share for BJP moves to 15 percent if we consider only the seats where BJP had contested.
  • The number of votes recieved by BJP in the top 29 seats is same as in the bottom 70 seats

That means BJP in Kerala is a decisive factor in nearly 30 of the 140 seats.

Way Forward

  • Under the leadership of Kummanam Rajasekharan, BJP has established itself as a force to reckon with in Kerala politics in nearly 30 seats.
  • With INC decaying nationally and in state due to desertion of Hindus, BJP has an unique chance to become the principal opposition in 10-year time frame
  • BJP always gets an additional 5-10 percent votes in Lok sabha election compared to Assembly elections. Shortlisting potential candidates for 2019 election and getting them involved in local issues is a must. Then BJP can give tough fight to CPM in 3-4 Lok Sabha constituencies
  • Replicating Goa model with active outreach to the Christian community by inducting lateral entrants into the party. Without substantial vote contribution from Christians, BJP will never grow in central Kerala and will never win in other parts
  • BJP needs to look into why they lag in urban areas like Ernakulam which should ideally be a BJP strong hold
  • BJP leaders need to develop talent to reach out and communicate to younger audience where a huge mass is swayed by SFI & DYFI brand of politics. Narendra Modi reinvented himself to communicate to younger audiences. Kummanam Rajasekharan needs to do the same
  • Language barrier : BJP has galaxy of eminent speakers but the message gets lost in translation. BJP could replicate the Bellary model (Sushma Swaraj vs Sonia Gandhi) that is getting a national leader to learn the local language and culture and fight against a local CPM/INC bigwig for Lok Sabha 2019 election . Though Sushma lost, we can see how Karnataka changed for BJP after that election
  • Appealing to Women voters - There are no metrics to figure out whether 51 percent of Kerala : women, favour BJP. The party will need to find and groom young talent to attract women voters.
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