- The BJP had high hopes in Malappuram by-polls, even though there was nothing much to hope for.
- The BJP's vote share dipped while the actual number of votes increased only marginally.
- The BJP has no place in literate Kerala: PK Kunjalikkutty
At one point, the BJP candiate in Malappuram, the Muslim dominated Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, snubbed the party's stand on beef. He even offered to provide 'Halal meat' in the constituency at a time when his party was taking flak for the alleged ban on slaughter houses in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP had high hopes in Malappuram by-polls, even though there was nothing much to hope for. The party state leadership had claimed that it could increase its votes by over six times. Its plan was to consolidate the Hindu votes as against a minority consolidation in favour of either the UDF or the LDF. It raised the plank of minority appeasement.
The party could spring a surprise, just as it did in UP and Manipur, BJP-NDA candiate Sreeprakash had stated. The claims were tall. Behind all these, the party was secretly dreaming to win over one lakh votes.
But the party's hopes were dashed to the grounds as both the LDF and the UDF gave no chance for the BJP to grow by chipping into their respective fortes.The BJP could increase its votes only marginally by just over 900 where as its vote share dipped from 7.5% in the last LS polls to 7.01%.
Did the BJP candidate dig his own grave by raking up the beef controversy? Sreeprakash says his statement had nothing to do with the poll results. But the BJP and NDA found itself on the defensive in the initial stage of the campaign and it had to spend lot of energy to overcome it.
Related: Operation Lotus: BJP plans surgical strikes in Kerala politics
In the last leg of the campaigning, BJP state general secretary K Surendran went a step further and warned against cow slaughter in the state. He reiterated his position, taking the beef ban controversy back in to the centre of the poll debate. The avoidable controversy over beef overshadowed the party’s attempts to highlight development mantra of the NDA government and the bid to sell brand Modi.
Related: Dare to kill cow in Kerala? BJP leader’s challenge
Besides this, the problems in the NDA also played against the performance of the saffron party in Malappuram. The Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, a major partner in the NDA and its founder SNDP leader Vellappally Nateshan had publicly aired concerns about the alliance with the BJP. Nateshan even called for conscience votes in the by-election.
The LDF and the UDF are equally happy that the BJP could not increase its vote share. “BJP has no place in literate Kerala,” said Kunjalikkutty after the poll. The BJP will have no dominion in Kerala politics, the CPM stated.
The BJP and NDA is dreaming big for Kerala and hope to make an impact in the 2019 LS polls. There were reports that the saffron party was chalking out strategies to win 11 seats out of the total 20 seats in Kerala. If Malappuram is any indication, the BJP will have to revisit its Kerala strategy. It will also have to stay away from trying to sell beef ban politics in a state where beef is a favourite of all communities.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:38 PM IST