news Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 05:30
Is the lotus blooming in Kerala?  By-polls result from Aruvikkara indicate that could just be the beginning for the BJP in the state. The results of the Aruvikkara by-polls in Kerala were not unexpected, with Congress-led UDF's candidate Sabarinadhan winning the election with a margin of over 10,000 votes. Given the high-decibel campaign leading up to the polls, the Kerala Congress is in a well-deserved celebratory mood. But there is another party in Kerala which also has its leaders smiling even if its not time yet to celebrate. The real surprise emerging from Aruvikkara is the how the BJP has fared. In 2011, the party’s candidate won 7,694 votes from Aruvikkara, but this time O Rajagopal polled 34,145 votes. With a jump of nearly 27,000 votes in an electorate of 1.85 lakh (and a turn out of 76%), that’s a neat 343.7% increase in four years. The UDF candidate polled about 56,000 votes, and the CPI(M) candidate garnered around 46,000 votes. And this in spite of a sympathy wave for the Congress due to the death of Sabarinadhan's father and Congress stalwart G Karthikeyan. Sabarinadhan 85-year-old O Rajagopal is the BJP’s veteran face in the state and a trusted politician the BJP has banked on more than once. It was O Rajagopal who contested against Shashi Tharoor in the Lok Sabha election from Thiruvananthapuram. Rajagopal is a candidate who has credibility to garner votes on his own, but a significant jump like this could be seen to do with more than just the candidate’s credentials. "The BJP has been widely accepted, it seems that central government's popularity has seeped through. But if the BJP cannot win over minorities, they can never win a seat, they will only increase voteshare," says senior journalist Gouridasan Nair. Over the past year, the BJP has been on a vigorous membership drive in the state. Its cadres have been pro-active, spreading the party’s message on mainstream and social media. The BJP’s surge has the CPI(M) worried to the extent that the Left parties are more concerned about the BJP’s vote share than UDF candidate’s win. CPI(M) leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told the media that the Left will thrive to stop the BJP’s growth. “The BJP’s vote increasing is a matter of concern. This is a clear sign that under the UDF rule communalism has increased in the state.” CPI(M) leader Thomas Issac said that the votes that BJP got should have automatically come to the Left, but increasing communalism in the state has polarised voters, making them opt for for the BJP. The LDF lacked in its campaign strategy and internal fights hampered their fight further.  A ruling government facing a credibility crisis and an unorganised Left seems to have further helped the BJP. CPI (M) Member of Parliament MB Rajesh perhaps rightly observed that the aspirations of voters have changed and it was wrong to expect that a majority of people will vote according to party loyalties. The Left in Kerala has traditionally banked on its strong cadre base, but Left leaders now acknowledge that even their traditional voters now have aspirations that need to be addressed.  UDF candidate Sabarinadhan had admitted in an interview to The News Minute a few days ago that the BJP would have fared better if the election had been held a year ago, taking into account PM Narendra Modi’s soaring popularity. Aruvikkara election results clearly demonstrate that any anti-incumbency vote for the UDF, is going to the BJP, instead of the LDF. The votes may or may not translate into seats for the BJP in 2016, but the writing on the wall is clear. Congress insiders say they are relieved to see the BJP eating up the LDF's vote share, but cannot afford complacency at this stage.  The Aruvikkara elections are also an indication that the BJP has the mettle to increase its vote share in Kerala, even in Left or Congress bastions. While the results are will embolden the BJP, it is sure to make the CPI(M) and Congress close ranks and stop discounting the saffron party in the state.  
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