Kerala’s Manjeshwar: A seat that the BJP hopes to win this time

With all three religions being prominent in Manjeshwar, the place is highly vulnerable to religious polarisation, which is visible in the political scenario.
K Surendran
K Surendran
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Manjeshwar is the northernmost Assembly constituency in Kerala. The constituency consists of Konkani, Kannada, Tulu and Malayalam speaking communities. Once part of Karnataka and now part of Kasaragod district and very close to Mangaluru, the constituency is a hub of cultural and religious diversity. All three religions are prominent here – Hindus, Konkani speaking Christians, and Muslims, which also makes the place highly vulnerable to religious polarisation.

This is visible in the political scenario of Manjeshwar. It has similarities to the Nemom constituency in Thiruvananthapuram, but is totally different from other constituencies in Kerala. Like Nemom, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a significant presence in Manjeshwar. Here the fight is between the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the BJP, which sheds further light on to the religious polarisation. While the non-Malayalam speaking communities allege that the IUML is excluding them, the BJP has not very well accepted by the Muslim community.

In more than three decades, the CPI(M) has won only once from Manjeshwar. All the other years, it was always a direct contest between the IUML and BJP.

In the upcoming Kerala Assembly elections, Manjeshwar is set to witness a tight fight as the sitting MLA MC Kamarudhin of the IUML has been facing accusations of cheating. He was arrested after more than 100 cases were registered against him. Moreover, all the complainants were IUML sympathisers. This time the IUML has fielded AKM Ashraf, who hails from the constituency. This is the first time that the IUML is fielding a person who is from the constituency.

For the BJP, it’s state President K Surendran is contesting from Manjeshwar and he expects to win as he has already contested twice from here and lost once in a closely fought match.

In 2001 IUML leader Cherkalam Abdulla won from here with 47,494 votes while CK Padmanabhan of the BJP came second with more than 34,000 votes.

In 1996, Cherkkalam Abdulla beat the BJP candidate by just 2,000 votes while in 1991, the margin was just 1,000 votes.

In 2006, a different verdict was seen in Manjeshwar when CPI(M)’s CH Kunhambu won with 39,242 votes while the BJP came second with 34,413 votes.

In 2011, again the IUML won the seat with a margin of more than 5,800 votes. BJP’s K Surendran was able to get 43,989.

It was in 2016 that the constituency witnessed a tight fight between the IUML and BJP, which seems to have given K Surendran the confidence to contest again from the constituency this time. The previous time the constituency witnessed a close contest between the IUML and BJP was in 1996.

In 2016, IUML’s Abdul Razaq won with a margin of just 89 votes. After Razaq’s death, MC Kamarudheen of the IUML won by more than 7,900 votes in the 2019 bye-elections. At that time, K Surendran had contested from Konni, but not Manjeshwar, but couldn’t win.

This time K Surendran is trying his luck both in Manjeshwar and Konni. In Konni it is apparent that he wants to contest because he was in the forefront of the fight against women’s entry into the Sabarimala Sri Ayyappa temple, after the Supreme Court allowed it. The BJP portrayed him as the belief and tradition protector of Sabarimala by not supporting the entry of women into the temple.


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