THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The massive surge in voter turnout has given both hopes and apprehensions to the three fronts, especially the BJP-led NDA which has high hopes of opening its account in the state this time. In 13 out of the 20 constituencies in the state, over 10 lakh people cast the ballot, thereby keeping the minimum benchmark for winning at 3.5 lakh votes in three-cornered fights. A day after the polls, after going through the permutations and combinations the BJP leadership expects to win three seats.
However, the biggest question will be whether the saffron party will be able to garner more than 3.5 lakh votes in any of the three crucial constituencies - Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur. Even when BJP’s internal assessment says the party has done extremely well and is set to win the three seats, there are apprehensions whether the high poll percentage could indeed prove a dampener for the party. A minority consolidation against the saffron party in favour of the UDF could have well resulted in a higher voter turnout in Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta.
“The high voter turnout is simply because all the three fronts polled their votes respectively. It doesn’t mean the BJP will make gains. When the poll percentage went up in the 2016 Assembly polls, it worked to the LDF’s advantage,” said CPM state chief Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. However, going by its electoral history, it won’t be a tall task for the BJP to poll more than 3.5 lakh votes in some of these constituencies. In 2014, BJP had finished an impressive second in Thiruvananthapuram with O Rajagopal polling 2.82 lakh votes, and losing to Shashi Tharoor by a relatively narrow margin of 14,501 votes.
The BJP brass has set a target of not less than 4 lakh votes for Kummanam Rajasekharan in the recently held elections. BJP state general secretary M T Ramesh, who was the party incharge for the elections, told Express, “We have set a target of 4 lakh votes from Thiruvananthapuram and we have made inroads into the coastal areas where we had trailed in the last general elections.
The BJP has a systematic working plan and this will lead to the party winning the seat and with the BDJS as ally and the NSS supporting us, the social equations among the Hindu vote bank have favoured the BJP extensively and we are sure to wrest the seat.” A similar narrative has been set for Pathanamthitta also where the party fielded its general secretary K Surendran. Though Surendran belongs to the backward Ezhava community, the BJP-RSS expects the Nair community to vote for him. According to the available information, the voting pattern was along the expected lines.
In the 2014 polls, BJP candidate M T Ramesh polled 1,38,954 votes but the party’s assessment of the ground situation found the circumstances greatly favour the party. Post the 2016 Assembly polls, the BJP-BDJS combination has led to social engineering at the grassroots and with a major chunk of the Nair vote bank also shifting to the party candidate, the BJP is expected to cross 3.75 lakh votes in the constituency which according to party leaders is more than enough to register a victory. With a total of 10,22,763 votes being polled and the expected split in minority votes coupled with the erosion in the CPM’s Ezhava votes , the party feels that it can indeed scalp the seat.
In Thrissur, BJP’s K P Sreesan polled 1,20,681 votes last time but the party is expecting to cross 3,60,000 votes there by fielding actor Suresh Gopi backed by the indefatigable party apparatus. Another major factor is a sizeable Ezhava vote bank which is supporting the BJP owing to the BDJS-BJP alliance and a sizeable chunk of Nair votes which is expected to be cast in favour of the BJP candidate in all the three seats, the party expects undercurrents in connection with the Sabarimala issue and the adamant stand taken by CM Pinarayi Vijayan and it believes the police atrocities against Ayyappa devoteeswhich could be turned into votes.