As the ruling Left Front is staring at the prospect of an unprecedented electoral rout in Kerala, a host of social issues including Sabarimala and the anti-incumbency factor are believed to have played an important role in the debacle.
The BJP, which had sensed a “golden opportunity” in the Sabarimala issue following the Supreme Court order that permitted women to offer prayers at the hill shrine, had partially succeeded in playing the Hindu card.
Though the campaign succeeded in consolidating the votes of a large number of caste Hindus including the NSS and a section of the the Backward Caste communities against the State government and the CPI(M), the BJP could not propel any of its candidates to victory.
The Congress, which played its cards cleverly in the campaign, “with the faithful and temple worshippers” at the height of the Sabarimala protest, appears to have benefited from the social turmoil as indicated by the poll trends.
It appears that the party candidates have succeeded in securing a large number of votes from those sections that were fiercely opposed to the State government’s stance.
Barring the initial lead he could post, Kummanam Rajasekharan, who stepped down as Mizoram Governor to contest the general election from Thiruvananthapuram constituency, could not surge ahead of Sashi Tharoor, as counting progressed. The second position for Mr. Rajasekharan would not bring any solace for the party as its candidate O. Rajagopal had finished second during the last Lok Sabha polls too.
In Pathanamthitta too, where the party was hoping to wrest the seat, its candidate K. Surendran, who was spearheading the Sabarimala campaign, failed to impress as he was often trailing in the third position. Even in the Assembly segments like Ranni and Aranmula where he was expected to lead, he could not make much of an impact. Even in Poonjar, where sitting legislator PC George sided with the BJP, Mr. Surendran’s performance was way below expectations.
It was also the case with the Thrissur constituency where BJP’s star candidate Suresh Gopi had contested. Though it was expected that Mr. Gopi would work wonders in the constituency where he was warned for invoking Lord Ayyappa, presiding deity of the Sabarimala temple, during the campaign, he could not offer any serious challenge to both the UDF and the LDF.
The CPI(M) and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will have to do a lot of soul-searching, especially its stand on Sabarimala, which many believed has hurt the sentiments of the majority Hindu community members.
An initial analysis of the voting patterns indicated that there had been significant shift in the voting patterns in the traditional strongholds of the Left Front, which could be partially attributed to unhappiness over its position on the issue.
Questions would also be raised against the State leadership of the BJP as it could not open account despite having a live issue, which had the potential to polarise votes. Instead of propelling its candidates to victory, the strategy proved to be beneficial to its arch rival Congress.