Kerala: Why BJP Could Win The Palakkad Bypoll

S Rajesh

Jun 25, 2024, 03:42 PM | Updated 06:26 PM IST

Palakkad Bypoll
Palakkad Bypoll
  • The momentum from the Lok Sabha performance is expected to help the party.
  • With bypolls to two assembly constituencies in Kerala approaching soon after the Lok Sabha election, all eyes are on Palakkad.

    This could be an opportunity for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to get only its second-ever member of the legislative assembly (MLA) in the state after veteran party leader O Rajagopal’s historic 2016 win from Nemom.

    The BJP is said to have a good chance in Palakkad because of the strong presence of the party and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in the area and the party's good performance in the last two assembly elections. 

    The bypoll has been necessitated due to the incumbent MLA, Shafi Parambil of the Congress, winning from Vadakara in the latest Lok Sabha election.

    The BJP finished second in Palakkad in both 2021 and 2016 by pushing the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), candidates to third place.

    The 2021 election was closely fought. Parambil’s 2021 victory margin against ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan of the BJP was just 3,859 votes.

    While the Congress secured a vote share of 38.06 per cent, the BJP got 35.34 per cent. The third-placed CPI(M) secured 25.64 per cent.

    In 2016, the difference between the second-placed BJP and the CPI(M) was smaller. The Congress, which won the seat, secured 41.77 per cent, while the BJP got 29.08 per cent and the CPI(M) 28.07 per cent.

    In the 2024 Lok Sabha election, the BJP once again finished second in the segment. While the Congress candidate V K Sreekandan received 52,779 votes, the BJP’s C Krishnakumar received 43,072 votes. The CPI(M)’s A Vijayaraghavan got 34,640 votes.

    While the BJP has yet to pick a candidate for the bypoll, there are murmurs that it would go with either C Krishnakumar, who was the party’s Lok Sabha candidate, or Sobha Surendran, who had contested from Alappuzha and significantly increased the party’s vote share there. Sobha had contested from Palakkad in 2016. 

    The name Padmaja Venugopal is also doing the rounds. She is the sister of Congress leader K Muraleedharan and the daughter of former chief minister K Karunakaran. She joined the party recently.

    But not everything is rosy.

    A political commentator who spoke with Swarajya said, “The challenge for the BJP would be the consolidation of the minority vote, especially that of Muslims behind the Congress. They make up about 25-28 per cent of the population. Christians are about 8-10 per cent.

    “Also, during the last election, the party received a lot of votes because of Sreedharan’s personal image. With him not contesting, that factor is not there this time around.”

    “Therefore, for the BJP to go from second place to becoming the winner, it is crucial for the party to be able to wean away Hindu votes from the CPI(M). The Ezhava community, which is a major supporter of the CPI(M), comprises around 30 per cent of the population.

    “Across the state, Hindu votes have been moving from the CPI(M) to the BJP, but more of it is required. This is something that the party has to work on.”

    Asked who would be a good candidate for the party in Palakkad, the commentator said, “It would be better for the party to put up another face as the voters could get fatigued by Krishnakumar. As far as Sobha Surendran is concerned, it might be better if she continues to concentrate in Alappuzha. She could contest from Kayamkulam, which is one of the assembly segments where the party did well.

    “I would like to see somebody like Sandeep Warrier. He is from the area and is also a well-known face because he has been a party spokesperson. Plus, he is also from an upper-caste background, which means he would fit the caste equation of the seat, which has a good population of Tamil Brahmins and Nairs.”

    The Congress is likely to field Rahul Mamkoothathil, the state president of the Youth Congress. However, there is also speculation that it could field V T Balram, who was twice elected as an MLA from Thrithala in Palakkad district. In the 2021 election, he lost to M B Rajesh of the CPI(M).

    "The good thing for the BJP here is that unlike in most of Kerala, the election here is seen as a Congress versus BJP fight. The left is not considered a contender, as they have been pushed to third place the last couple of times.

    "What could also work in favour of the party this time is the positive momentum that has been created after the Lok Sabha election. Suresh Gopi's historic victory from Thrissur and the rise in the NDA's vote share are still fresh in people's minds.

    "While nationally, the BJP may not have done well, in Kerala, the image is of them having accomplished something extraordinary. That, I believe, is definitely going to help," he said.

    Also Read: Promising signs for BJP before Kerala Assembly elections — leads in 11, second in 9 and a close third in 10 seats

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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