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One step forward, three steps back. There seems no better way to describe the abject failure of the BJP in Kerala to emerge as a credible player. This has been once again demonstrated unambiguously by the party’s pathetic performance in the keenly- watched by-election from the Puthupally assembly segment recently.
The Puthupally seat in Kottayam district fell vacant due to the demise of former chief minister Oommen Chandy, who held his home turf for the Congress for over 50 years in a row. Indeed, a feat in a political ecosystem dominated by coalitions helmed by the Congress and the CPI(M) for decades on end.
Chandy was one of the most popular politicians in Kerala, who drew his energy by remaining among the common people all the time. As the by-poll was declared, the Congress had no choice but to nominate the late leader’s son Chandy Oommen to defend the seat. The CPI-M picked its youthful face Jaik C Thomas to take on the Chandy scion, despite his record of losing twice over to the Chandy senior.
No one had expected any miracle to happen in the predominantly Christian-dominated rural constituency, which stood loyal to the Congress all the time. The LDF’s prime goal, despite the bravado for public consumption, was to see if its nominee could acquit himself creditably by collecting a decent chunk of votes, instead of going down ignominiously. The outcome smashed all such hopes. The Chandy junior came out with flying colours, clinching one of state’s highest-ever victory margins.
Hemmed in between the two main rivals was the BJP’s Ligin Lal. It was a foregone conclusion that Lal, the party’s district president, was destined to finish the third. But what made the story an all the more dismal one was that he ended up collecting just 6558 votes, falling way behind even the LDF contestant. The party has added yet another page to its long story of failures in the southern state.
A party that predominantly draws its support from the Hindu fold, Kerala is not a fertile field for the BJP to flourish, going by the state’s demographic specifics. The party cannot count on making any substantial progress based entirely on the Hindus, in a state where Muslims and Christians account for nearly 53 percent of the population. But what the party’s repeated electoral routs again and again prove is that the state leadership has failed to retain even the trust of those sections of the Hindu community which endorses the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party’s recent attempts to win the support of a section of the Christian community came a cropper after the Manipur incidents. A feeling is strong that Christians were at the receiving end in Manipur, where the Centre declined to intervene to end the raging ethnic conflict.
What is even more astounding is the callous indifference of the present leadership to the latest electoral humiliation, which came when the Lok Sabha elections were just a few months away.
Bumptious rhetoricians as the state party leaders are right from state president K Surendran, they did not even show any qualms by owning moral responsibility for the huge debacle or spare a single day to retrospect what seriously went wrong.