It Is Difficult To Defeat Shashi Tharoor From Thiruvananthapuram... Or Is It?

S Rajesh

Jan 10, 2024, 04:16 PM | Updated 04:16 PM IST

Shashi Tharoor and O Rajagopal.
Shashi Tharoor and O Rajagopal.

Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader O Rajagopal recently caused a flutter by praising Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and saying that it would be difficult for anyone else to win from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat in the near future.

He made the remarks at a function in which Tharoor received an award from Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar.

Rajagopal, who became the party's first MLA in the state by winning from Nemom, which is part of Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, in 2016, later said that his comments were misinterpreted and that the BJP could win the seat this time.

While the episode did create some bad optics for the BJP, with critics asking if the party had given up the battle before it began, it is worth noting that Thiruvananthapuram is a seat where the party could actually perform well.

The BJP has put up a good fight in the seat in the last two Lok Sabha elections.

In the 2019 elections, BJP's Kummanam Rajasekharan secured 31.30 per cent of the votes, while Tharoor got 41.19 per cent.

The CPI finished third with just 25.60 per cent.

In 2014, Rajagopal was the BJP candidate and he secured a 32.32 per cent vote share. The contest was closer then and Tharoor managed to win by securing 34.09 per cent of the votes which was just 1.77 per cent more than that of Rajagopal. The margin of victory was 15,000. The CPI was pushed to third place, like in 2019 and had secured 28.50 per cent.

Rajagopal won in four of the seven assembly segments in the constituency in 2014, while Tharoor won three.

Among the reasons mentioned for the BJP's good performance in Thiruvananthapuram are a strong cadre base, both of the party and that of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), support from major caste groups like Nairs and Ezhavas and a large urban population that is more clued into the work done by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.

This time around, the party is looking to increase its existing vote share by drawing support from Christians, who are disillusioned with the United Democratic Front (UDF) due to issues like love jihad, conversions and increasing importance of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

According to the 2011 census, the population of the Thiruvanathapuram district comprised of 66.46 per cent Hindus, 19.1 per cent Christians and 13.72 per cent Muslims.

While it will not be easy to defeat Tharoor because of reasons like popularity among sections of youth and a strong presence of the Congress party in the constituency, which would get him a large chunk of the minority vote, it is not impossible for the BJP to defeat him either.

Tharoor has his own issues like opposition from within the party and complaints that he is not very visible in the constituency, which could go against him.

The vote share of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) could also rise due to its overtures to the IUML and the Samastha and the support of a section of Christians as the Kerala Congress (Mani) is now a part of the front.

The division of votes, as a result, could help the BJP.

Thiruvananthapuram, is thus, likely to be a closely fought three-cornered contest worth watching out for, irrespective of Rajagopal's remarks.

S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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