June 2, 2018
Kochi: Hold on before guffawing at the BJP for coming third in the just-concluded Chengannur Assembly byelection. In fact, the saffron party performed outstandingly well getting 35,270 votes contesting as a single party this time.
In the 2011 elections, its nominee Radhakrishna Menon managed to get just over 6,061 votes. But things changed dramatically in the 2016 elections when it not only won an Assembly seat in Kerala for the first time, but also gave a tough fight to the major allies of LDF and UDF in most of the constituencies, including Malampuzha where CPM veteran and former Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan scraped through against BJP low profile leader Shobha Surendran.
In 2016, Chengannur too saw BJP leader P S Sreedharan Pillai muster 42,682 votes as against 6,061 votes in 2011. Thanks to the party’s tieup with Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) representing the Ezhava community seen as the backbone of communist movement.
BDJS leaders like Vellappally Natesan, son Tushar Vellappally had actively campaigned for BJP then. The party which got just 4.84 per cent votes in 2011, bounced back by increasing its tally by 29.36 per cent and thereby pulling down the share of CPM to 36 pervcent and Congress to 30.89 per cent in 2016.
In 2011 P C Vishnunath of the Congress, who won the election, polled 65,156 votes (51.98 per cent) and CPM candidate C S Sujatha got 52,656 (42). The Chengannur byelection has helped BJP to prove that it is a force to reckon with 23 per cent vores minus BDJS. Also it has taught BDJS a lesson for trying to fleece it for getting support.
BDJS should have learnt that without associating with a major party it is not possible for it to pull on, observers note. Since CPM’s activities are confined to Kerala and Congress is struggling to find a charismatic leader at the Centre, the best option before it is to once again shake hands with BJP.
It is written over the wall that BJP and BDJS would cement it ties in the next election. Also parties like Kerala Congress (Mani) would be a likely ally in the next Assembly election. But both BDJS and KCM would like to know the performance of BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls before making taking the plunge.
Political pundits had predicted that the saffron party had no room in the State where people have a different outlook while electing people’s representatives. The era of Amit Shah and team changed the entire outlook of the party in the State which catapulted it to a spot where it could take head on the mighty LDF comprising CPM, CPI, INL, NCP, and the UDF consisting of Congress, Muslim League, Kerala Congress (Mani) and others. It is going to be a tough affair for both LDF and UDF which were sharing the governance alternatively in the last few decades.