The recent expansion of BJP in the areas of the country where it has been an insignificant player historically has one thing in common. It has been eating out the Congress votes in those areas first and then trying to defeat the incumbent party. In states like Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, and Telangana, the growth of the party has followed the same pattern.
In the 2020 local body elections, the party tried to repeat the same in Kerala and succeeded to a large extent. In many gram panchayats and municipalities, BJP largely cut the Congress votes and the Congress registered one of its worst performances in the last few years and evidently, there was a substantial increase in BJP’s vote share and the number of seats. Though the real winner of BJP’s spectacular performance was the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), which won more than 60 per cent of the various seats in different bodies.
BJP’s performance in Pathanamthitta district- the ground zero of the Sabarimala Protests is noteworthy, where it not only retained the Palakkad municipality but also wrested the Pandalam Municipality from the LDF. Moreover, the party also won the Kochi Municipal Corporation by one seat, defeating Congress’s N Venugopal, who blamed it all on the EVMs. “It was a sure seat. I can’t say what happened. There was no problem with the party. There was a problem with the voting machine. That may be the reason for BJP’s victory,” Mr Venugopal said.
“I have not decided to go to court with the voting machine issue so far. Will check what happened exactly,” he added.
BJP’s rise in Kerala is on the similar lines of its expansion in West Bengal. In the state of West Bengal, BJP had a marginal presence with Left Front, Congress, and later TMC becoming the major players. However, in the last few years, BJP has gulped the vote bank of Congress and the Left Front to emerge as the major opposition against Mamata Banerjee led TMC.
Similarly in Kerala, BJP had a marginal presence before 2016 but the saffron party emerged as the third-largest party by a vote share with around 15 per cent votes, although it could win only one seat.
In the 2019 General Elections, the party could not win any seat but won 13 per cent of voters, emerging as the third-largest party in terms of vote share. Now as the result of the 2020 local election suggests, it has further consolidated its position in Kerala and dislodged the left and Congress from many constituencies.
In the upcoming assembly elections scheduled in 2021, BJP would probably emerge as the major opposition to the Left Front and Congress would be further marginalized. And, by the 2026 assembly elections, the party would have real chances to win Kerala as it has for West Bengal in the 2021 Assembly Elections.
Congress is even being abandoned by the Christian community of Kerala which, along with Muslims, was a major vote bank for the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). The rising dominance of Muslims in Congress and UDF together forced the Christians to incline more towards the LDF and the BJP.
The minority appeasement policy of the UDF was a rallying point for the BJP, which tried to consolidate the Hindu vote by combining the Nair, Ezhava, Brahmin, and the Scheduled Caste votes. Although, the BJP cannot bank much on minority voters, it certainly is targeting the upper caste Hindu base which has been so far splintered between Congress and the Left.