BJP’s Christian outreach strategy comes a cropper in Kerala

The NDA’s vote share increased only marginally in Kottayam, Idukki and Ernakulam, while there was a dip in its share in Pathanamthitta.
Image used for representation
Image used for representationPhoto | Allen Egenuse

KOCHI: The Christian outreach by the BJP seemed to have made some headway, but the impressive victory margins by UDF candidates in central Kerala where a large segment of the community is based show the community has backed Congress in a big way. A big segment of the 61.41 lakh (18.4%)-strong Christian community is based in the central Kerala districts of Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta.  

Image used for representation
BJP breaks Kerala jinx, vote share grows

The NDA’s vote share increased only marginally in Kottayam (from 17.04% to 19.74%), Idukki (8.55% to 10.86%), and Ernakulam (14.24% to 15.87%), while there was a dip in its share in Pathanamthitta from 28.95% to 25.49%. The fall in vote share in Pathanamthitta is significant given the hype created by the entry of Anil K Antony, son of Congress leader A K Antony, on BJP ticket.

Towards the fag end of the campaigning, Believers Church issued a statement backing Anil. However, Hindu votes, which BJP president K Surendran could attract in 2019, seem to have ditched Christian candidate Anil. “Last time, the Sabarimala issue was at its peak, and this was reflected in the votes polled for Surendran.This time, there were no such issues,” said Dejo Kappen, political analyst.

“What we saw is that voters had no qualms in supporting BJP candidates as long as they have independent credentials outside party circles,” said K M Sajad Ibrahim, political analyst, and professor, the department of political science, Kerala University.

Following Suresh Gopi’s win in Thrissur, the talk was that Syrian Christians voted for BJP, aiding his victory. “I don’t think the community would vote en masse to a BJP candidate. Suresh Gopi’s victory is mostly due to his individual appeal. This is also true for the fight to the finish shown by Rajeev Chandrasekhar in Thiruvananthapuram,” he said.

Traditionally, the Syro-Malabar Catholics, who make up 23.46 lakh (38.20% of Christians in the state), are considered close to the Congress. Though there have been some public utterances, and meetings of the Church heads with the BJP leadership, the results from central Kerala clearly show that there is no worrying erosion of the Congress vote bank in this Lok Sabha elections.

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