Kerala By-Elections: Communist-Led Front Gains And BJP’s Poor Show Continues

Kerala By-Elections: Communist-Led Front Gains And BJP’s Poor Show ContinuesRepresentative image (ARINDAM DEY/AFP/Getty Images)
  • The by-elections results from Kerala shows that the contest is still between the Communists and the Congress.

    These results are also proof that BJP’s wait for emerging as the third option in Kerala just got longer.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) won three seats and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI(M))-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) won two seats in the by-elections to the five Kerala Assembly seats.

The two seats — Konni in Pathanamthitta district and Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram district — won by the LDF should cause concern to the UDF.

The Congress-led UDF has lost these two seats it held in the assembly although its ally, the Muslim League, managed to win the Manjeswaram constituency.

The LDF has won the Konni seat from the UDF after 23 years; and in Vattiyoorkavu, after slipping to the third slot in 2014 polls, it has emerged a winner this time.

The Vattiyoorkavu victory for the CPI(M) is also based on its candidate V K Prashanth’s track record as Thiruvananthapuram’s mayor. Besides this, the anger of the electorate — over the diktat of the Nair Service Society (NSS) to its members to vote for the UDF candidate in the Nair-dominated constituency — also had a role to play in the LDF victory.

In Ernakulam, the UDF managed to hold on to its seat, though with a lower margin, which the Congress blamed on heavy rains on the voting day.

More importantly, the by-elections show that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has slipped badly Kerala. The party was hoping to win in Vattiyoorkavu and Konni but finished third in both places.

In Vattiyoorkavu, the BJP ended third after having finished second in the 2016 elections. Its candidate, S Suresh, got 27,000-odd votes against the over 44,000 votes that former state BJP president, Kumanam Rajasekharan, had got in 2016.

Rajasekharan was the front-runner to contest from the constituency this time too but Suresh got the nomination at the last minute, indicating problems within the party.

In Konni, BJP candidate K Surendran ended third despite the constituency being part of the Pathanamthitta district, where protests against the Supreme Court judgment allowing women of reproductive age to enter the Sabarimala Ayyappa shrine broke out last year.

The LDF fared poorly in Kerala during the Lok Sabha elections mainly because it insisted on implementing the apex court ruling. The Congress-led UDF and BJP utilized the LDF’s forceful implementation of the ruling in the May Lok Sabha polls, though the saffron party didn’t win any seat.

K Surendran was nominated by the BJP for the Konni seat and he has ended up third. In the May Parliament elections, too, he finished third from the Pathanamthitta constituency, though it had looked like he would do better.

Perhaps, the positive outcome here for the BJP is that all in all, it has managed to get almost 40,000 votes. In the Manjeshwaram assembly seat, the BJP finished second with its votes, however, rising by a meagre 348 votes.

A major problem for the BJP in Kerala is that its house is not in order with internal squabbles affecting it badly.

If the feedback from Vattiyoorkavu is to be believed, the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) members voted for the LDF candidate. This could have been, probably, because Rajasekharan was not given the seat.

But another reason may have been to teach NSS leader G Sukumaran Nair a lesson for ditching the BJP at the last minute during the Lok Sabha elections to support the Congress candidate, Shashi Tharoor.

Finally, the results of the by-elections are proof that BJP’s wait for emerging as the third option in Kerala just got longer.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani


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