New Delhi: Amidst all the din surrounding the Kairana by-election result on Thursday, there was a warning bell for the BJP from down south too. All the way from Chengannur in Kerala where the BJP not just lost, but polled fewer votes than last time despite having a fairly popular candidate.
The CPI(M)'s Saji Cherian won the Chengannur bypoll by more than 20,000 votes. In a small state like Kerala, any margin that is in five digits is significant, more so for a bypoll. There is evidence that the Christian community which numbers about 50,000 in Chengannur, strategically voted for the Marxist candidate. This is an unusual phenomena, not a rare one, but an unusual one.
The Nasranis as the Christian, landed class are called in central Kerala have traditionally always voted for the Congress and its many different alphabetical avatars from A to I to M. There have been exceptions like a Thomas Issac or a Raju Abraham, Marxist leaders for whom the Christians have voted because they come from the same community. But in this by-election there is evidence that Christian dominated panchayats like Mazhukeer, Thiruvomundoor and Kalissery have backed the LDF candidate.
Even in the 2016 Assembly elections, the Muslim heartland in north Kerala comprising Thalassery, Malappuram, Kasargod and Kannur voted for the CPI (M), which was best placed to defeat the BJP. Again, an unusual phenomena.
In a state which has 45 percent minority population this should worry the BJP if it hopes to do well.
What should also worry the BJP is how their candidate advocate Sreedharan Pillai who was one of the few men who built the party from scratch in God's own country polled about 7,000 votes fewer than last time. There is reason to believe that NDA ally BDJS, backed by SNDP strongman Velapally Natesan had tacitly asked his supporters to back the Left candidate.
Velapally had even given interviews just days before the Chengannur bypoll suggesting the CPI(M) candidate there was strong. This was his way of getting back at the BJP which Velapally and his son Tushar believe has treated them badly. They were given all kinds of promises from cabinet berths to Rajya Sabha seats, none of which came to fruition.
If the BJP hopes to make up for its deficit in north Indian states where it maxed out in 2014 by incremental gains in the South, then Kerala is definitely not one of those states. The people of Chengannur just tolled the bell for the BJP.