BJP’s Kummanam Rajasekharan came second by a considerable margin of around one lakh votes in Thiruvananthapuram.

How Shashi Tharoor won Thiruvananthapuram for the third consecutive time
news Lok Sabha 2019 Thursday, May 23, 2019 - 19:02

From exit and opinion polls to political pundits, predictions had indicated that a third consecutive victory would be an uphill task for the Congress in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram, considering the BJP had deployed a strong leader, Kummanam Rajasekharan, amidst their effort to unify the Hindu vote. But the people of Thiruvananthapuram constituency have revealed that they still prefer their sitting Member of Parliament and Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor.  

While Shashi Tharoor polled over 40% of the votes – 4,11,525 out of 10,01,063 polled in the constituency – BJP’s Kummanam Rajasekharan secured the second position, with 3,13,339 votes. Communist Party of India’s (CPI) C Divakaran, who polled 2,55,625 votes (25.53%) votes came third in the race. Speaking to the media, Tharoor made a cricket analogy about his victory. "I feel like a batsman who has made a century while his team lost the match," he said to the media, referring to the Congress party's poor show at the Centre.

What has baffled political analysts in Kerala, many of whom had predicted a loss for Tharoor is that he has managed to increase his vote share from 2014. In 2014, even though Tharoor managed to win for a second consecutive term as the MP from Thiruvananthapuram, it wasn’t an easy ride. BJP’s O Rajagopal lost to Tharoor by a margin of just 15,470 votes, that is, by 1.64%. With the BJP’s campaign on Sabarimala reaching a crescendo, many had expected that the upper caste Hindu votes that Tharoor commanded would move to the BJP. It had been speculated that even if Tharoor was able to retain the coastal votes and minority votes, he would still not be able to offset the loss by erosion of votes to the BJP.

However, Tharoor has proved critics wrong by winning by a significant margin. In fact, of the seven Assembly segments that make up the Thiruvananthapuram Parliamentary constituency, his rival – BJP’s Kummanam Rajasekharan – has done better than him in only Nemom, which is the BJP’s only Assembly seat in Kerala.

Shashi Tharoor celebrating his victory along with Congress leaders in Thiruvananthapuram.

The biggest shot in the arm for Shashi Tharoor was however the coastal vote – in the coastal Assembly segments of Neyyattinkara, Parassala, and Kovalam, Tharoor has a good lead over his rivals. The voters in these regions – Nadar and Latin Christians – have decided the fate of candidates for a long time, and Tharoor managed to get these votes.

In Kazhakoottam, Vattiyoorkavu, and Thiruvananthapuram Assembly segments where Tharoor had not performed well in 2014, he had a tough fight with Kummanam Rajasekharan this time around, winning by slim margins in each of the three segments. The significance of Tharoor’s victory this time is that he has not only raised his share in the coastal segments that protected him in 2014, but also wrested back the voters from the BJP in the other assembly segments. He is almost back to where he began in 2009.

J Prabash, retired professor of Kerala University and political analyst says that the minority vote has also consolidated in Tharoor’s favour. "It is important to note that there has been a consolidation of minority votes in favor of UDF. As far as the minorities were concerned, their aim was to keep the BJP out of power in the Centre as well as in the state. Also, various opinion polls had shown that in Thiruvananthapuram, Kummanam Rajasekharan might win and that C Divakaran would come in third place. This might have a threat to the minorities who voted for Tharoor to keep Kummanam out. Also, the Sabarimala issue had favoured the UDF in Kerala rather than the BJP,” Prabash said.

Shashi Tharoor is a two-time MP from Thiruvananthapuram, who was looking for a third consecutive victory. BJP’s Kummanam Rajasekharan is a popular BJP leader in the state as well as the former Governor of Mizoram, who resigned from the post in order to contest the elections. CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front’s (LDF) C Divakaran is a sitting Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Nedumangad constituency in Thiruvananthapuram, as well as a former trade union leader.

Thiruvananthapuram was touted to be one of the constituencies from where the BJP would open its first Lok Sabha MP account, mostly because of its Hindu- majority demography, that’s much higher than the state average.

It is important to note that two-time MP Shashi Tharoor was an outsider to politics, let alone Kerala politics when he contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket in Thiruvananthapuram. In 2009, Tharoor, polled 3,26,725 votes securing a vote share of 44.29%. He won after he defeated CPI’s P Ramachandran Nair by a margin of 99,998 votes. BJP’s PK Krishnadas came third that year, polling a total of 84,094 votes.

In 2014, Shashi Tharoor had secured a total of 2,97,806 votes, whereas O Rajagopal, who came second, secured a total of 2,82,336 votes. Meanwhile, CPI’s Bennet Abraham came third with a total of 2,48,941.

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