BJP is no longer an outsider in Kerala

This was an election in Kerala that the BJP contested with a seriousness not seen earlier.
PM Modi converses with Suresh Gopi as BJP state president K Surendran and Union Minister V Muraleedharan look on during the party’s Kerala Padayatra in Thiruvananthapuram.
PM Modi converses with Suresh Gopi as BJP state president K Surendran and Union Minister V Muraleedharan look on during the party’s Kerala Padayatra in Thiruvananthapuram.(Photo | B P Deepu, EPS)

The time after voting is when every political party comes up with claims regarding the number of seats they are going to win. Everyone is at their optimistic best, at least in public. The UDF, which had won all but one seat in 2019, is projecting a victory of a similar magnitude. The LDF seems confident it will not have to face the humiliation of 2019, when it saved face with a lone seat. While the two leading fronts are busy deciphering the turnout, there is one thing on which they quietly agree—that the BJP has become a political force to reckon with in the state.

This was an election in Kerala that the BJP contested with a seriousness not seen earlier. The party put up a strong fight in five constituencies and may influence the outcome in many others. In 2019, too, the BJP had a strong campaign in the backdrop of the Sabarimala agitation, but the entry of Rahul Gandhi into the state’s political terrain as a candidate from Wayanad tilted the anti-LDF votes in favour of the UDF. But 2024 offers a different picture.

Few see the chances of the Congress emerging as a big winner this time. The Gandhi factor has considerably waned. With most voters already anticipating a third term for Narendra Modi, the odds against the BJP are considerably lesser this time. Another factor that may have worked in favour of the BJP is the palpable antagonism between the two leading fronts, which ensured that there was no tactical vote transfer against the BJP this time.

It is still too early to say whether the BJP will win a seat this time, but it can be stated that the party‘s vote share will likely increase. An important factor is that the BJP is no longer seen as an outsider in the state after the son and daughter of two former chief ministers, Anil Antony and Padmaja Venuopal, joined the party. If the BJP’s central leadership can provide for a credible leadership in the state unit and the party gains votes beyond its pocket strongholds, then Kerala will no longer be an insurmountable terrain for it. If that happens, the state’s political story will change forever.

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