New Delhi: The ruling BJP on Thursday released its list of candidates for Kerala for 13 out of the total 14 seats, choosing to defer its announcement for the contentious Pathanamthitta constituency.
Pathanamthitta shot to national limelight as the constituency housing the Sabarimala temple, which was in the eye of a political storm after the Supreme Court’s September 2018 verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter Sabarimala.
While the CPM-led Kerala government said it would abide by the court order, the BJP and the Congress triggered a political debate, riding on religious sentiments.
The current Pathanamthita MP, Anto Anthony, is from the United Democratic Front (UDF). While Anthony won the 2014 elections, Peelipose Thomas from the LDF-IND alliance was second and NDA candidate NTA Ramesh came in third.
This time, the BJP is hoping to cash in on the disadvantage of anti-incumbency suffered by Antony. He is fighting the seat for the third time and is facing dissent from his own party camp in the Pathanamthitta district as he is from Kottayam.
The saffron party is also looking to cash in on the strong undercurrent against (Left Democratic Front) LDF candidate Veena George and believes that the factors which led to her victory in the last Assembly election against Congress Candidate K Sivadasan Nair will not work this time.
The win from the Pathanamthitta seat would essentially mean the win of that particular party’s viewpoint on the Sabarimala issue. It includes five assembly constituencies which make the entire Pathanamthitta district and two from Kottayam district. Four seats in the district are with the LDF and one with UDF while one seat in Kottayam is with UDF and other with independent candidate PC George, who defeated all three fronts in the 2016 elections.
A majority of the population in Pathanamthitta is from the Hindu community (55%), followed by Christian community. The Muslim population in the area is a mere 6%. Both the Congress-led UDF and CPM led LDF have fielded candidates from the Christian community. The UDF candidate Antony, who is also the sitting MP, is a Roman Catholic. The LDF candidate George, who is an MLA from Aranamula, is seen more as a strong face of the Orthodox Church due to her family connections than an LDF cadre.
BJP, on its part, is fairly certain that it would win the constituency. The nucleus of their confidence comes from the Sabarimala agitation in the name of the Ayyappa, which had set the ball rolling six months ago. But there seem to be differences in opinion between the BJP and the RSS on who to field, prompting the BJP to not release the name yet.
The RSS has found a strong sentiment over the Sabarimala issue, especially among women who supported the agitation and have been favouring K Surendran, the BJP's face in the campaign. Surendran was jailed and banned from entering the district for leading the agitation.