Coastal votes not UDF’s best bet anymore in Thiruvananthapuram

UDF’s vote share in Kovalam assembly segment, that includes the much talked about Vizhinjam seaport, dipped by nearly 4 per cent
Women voters who lined up to cast their votes in Kovalam assembly segment, under Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, on April 26.
Women voters who lined up to cast their votes in Kovalam assembly segment, under Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, on April 26.Photo | Vincent Pulickal, EPS

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Coastal votes, that have remained the mainstay of the UDF’s four consecutive victories in Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat, may not be entirely bankable for the Congress-led front in the upcoming elections, given the major inroads the BJP-led NDA has made into MP-elect Shashi Tharoor’s traditional bastions.

Votes from the coastal segments have come to Tharoor’s rescue whenever he was on a sticky wicket. When cornered by NDA’s O Rajagopal in 2014 and Rajeev Chandrasekhar a decade later, votes especially from Kovalam, Neyyattinkara and Parassala, have helped the senior Congress leader pull through. The final push towards victory happened this time as well but the UDF’s vote share dipped alarmingly in the coastal belt.

A detailed analysis of the assembly-segment wise results vis-a-vis 2019 shows that the UDF’s vote share in Kovalam assembly segment, that includes the much talked about Vizhinjam seaport, dipped by nearly 4%. On the other hand, the NDA gained over 5% vote share in Kovalam that has remained a Congress fortress since the 2016 assembly election. The LDF’s vote share dipped marginally in the segment where the Latin Catholic Church holds the sway.

Meanwhile, Congress leader and Kovalam MLA M Vincent dismissed the theory that coastal votes drifted en masse from the UDF owing to the Vizhinjam seaport issue and the rival parties’ charge that the sitting MP did not help address fisherfolks’ issues.

“If you analyse the results of the 21 booths in and around the Vizhinjam area, the UDF has a lead of over 8,600 votes. UDF has also maintained a lead in coastal areas such as Karumkulam and Poovar,” Vincent said. The MLA said the NDA’s vote share rise in Kovalam could be a result of its ‘social engineering’ and ‘community appeasement strategies’ that the saffron camp adopted in non-coastal areas of the assembly constituency.

Thiruvananthapuram assembly segment, which also has a considerable number of coastal voters, saw the UDF’s vote share fall by 4%. The erosion of votes proved advantageous mainly to the NDA, which bagged 3% more votes and to a lesser extent the LDF that saw its vote share rise by 1%.

Meanwhile, Thiruvananthapuram and Parassala were the only two assembly segments where the LDF registered a marginal rise in vote share of above 1%. The front’s performance was more or less a repeat of 2019, as the overall vote share in the Lok Sabha seat marginally rose only by 0.12%. With the LDF’s vote share remaining more or less unchanged vis-a-vis 2019, the BJP was clearly the direct beneficiary of the vote erosion from the UDF camp.

“The BJP is yet to undertake a detailed analysis of the booth-wise results in Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat. But generally, the party has been able to make significant inroads into uncharted terrains, including coastal areas, and establish a firm foothold,” BJP Thiruvananthapuram district president V V Rajesh said. The party has already begun focussing on the upcoming local body polls where it hopes to win a few more corporation wards in coastal segments.

Neyyattinkara stood more or less firm with the UDF this time, as it saw the least erosion of vote share among the seven assembly segments.

However, the NDA increased its vote share by 4% in the constituency bordering Tamil Nadu. Though represented by a CPM MLA, the LDF’s vote share in Neyyattinkara dipped marginally compared to 2019.

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