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Congress Finds a Face-saver in Kerala’s Landslide Victory, Sabarimala Issue Fails to Pay Off for BJP

File photo of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

File photo of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

The Left Democratic Front, which could win only one seat and even lost in its citadels like Alathur, Attingal and Palakkad, has a lot of introspection to do for its huge loss in the state.

Thiruvananthapuram: Thiruvanthapuram, which witnessed a triangular contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trying to win over voters over the Sabarimala issue, was retained by two-time Congress MP Shashi Tharoor by a margin of one lakh votes.

The BJP had centred its campaign in the state on the issue of women’s entry to the temple. Particularly, in Thiruvanthapuram and Pathanamthitta, it was expecting to make a mark.

A senior party leader said, “There was too much concentration on just the Sabarimala issue and this did not work in the BJP's favour. People could see through the politics that was being played over the matter. Independent believers, who were with the BJP in the beginning, started distancing themselves.”

BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP V Muraleedharan said that as far as the Sabarimala issue was concerned, the votes largely went in favour of the Congress. “For voter, the UDF seemed to be in a better position to defeat the CPI(M).”

When the BJP was mainly depending on the temple row, the Congress asked what did the saffron party do for believers.

Tharoor time and again said, “There are three ways in which one could overcome a Supreme Court verdict. One is by filing a review petition, forming a law in Parliament or by bringing out an ordinance. The BJP is in power at the Centre, but did not do any of this as it was exploiting the issue for political benefits.”

The Congress was successful in raising this question and the BJP was not able to come up with a convincing reply.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the difference between the BJP candidate and Tharoor was only about 15,000 votes. This time, Tharoor’s high-voltage campaign ensured a margin of over one lakh votes.

Pathanamthitta was the epicentre of the Sabarimala agitations and BJP candidate K Surendran had led the protests.

However, he could only come third in the constituency. The grand old party’s Anto Antony won the seat, while the CPI(M)’s Veena George came second.

However, the Left Front has a lot of introspection to do for its huge loss in the state.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the landslide victory was due to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the sentiments of people went against the state and Central governments.

He said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should take responsibility of the Left’s huge defeat and resign.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) could win only one seat and even lost in its citadels like Alathur, Attingal and Palakkad from where sitting MP MB Rajesh was seeking mandate for the third time.

Experts believe the Rahul Gandhi factor, the way the state government handled the Sabarimala issue and negative sentiments against the Modi government were all responsible for UDF’s huge victory.

Senior Journalist and political analyst Jacob George said, “This could be seen as the response of Kerala against the Modi government. The BJP has not been able to win the hearts of the people of Kerala. At the same time, the Left has a lot to learn from this result.”

The chief minister, in his statement, said the LDF’s defeat was unexpected. “We will examine the reasons in detail,” he added.

General elections in Kerala usually see an anti-Centre sentiment, and this time too, it was no different.

“People would have voted against the BJP this time. Strong feelings against the Centre were reflected across the state at the time of election,” he said.