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Will Sabarimala help BJP in Kerala? Exit polls say ‘no’

Thiruvananthapuram: The BJP-propped Sabarimala agitation last year – to allow women in the 12th Century temple – may have got a favourable response from the Supreme Court but is unlikely to get votes for the central party.

The state, which has witnessed major political battles between the Congress and the Left, found the Bharatiya Janata Party piggybacking last year on the Sabarimala issue to exploit religious sentiments.

Exit polls, however, have shown that the vote share gap between BJP’s K Surendran and Congress’ Anto Antony in Pathanamthitta -- the constituency under which the temple falls – is sizeable. Having said that, it is true the BJP has managed to butt into the constituency coming second, with the Left Front third.

The Firstpost has reported that the BJP’s vote share has increased to 16 per cent from 10 per cent during the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Thiruvananthapuram seems to be the only seat from where the BJP may win. The party stood as runner-up in 2014 in Thiruvananthapuram. The state president of the BJP, Kummanam Rajashekharan, has contested against Shashi Tharoor of the Congress these elections.

As Firstpost reports, the projected victory of Rajashekharan is not attributed to the Sabarimala protests but to the overall rise of the BJP in the state.

Actor and BJP leader from Thrissur, Suresh Gopi’s constituency has also seen an increase in the BJP’s vote share. This is more because of Gopi’s stardom.

The exit polls have not indicated any significant increase in the BJP’s vote share. Palakkad, a constituency the BJP was confident of, has recorded a dip in its vote share of 3 per cent.

The trend indicates that the BJP has not been able to gain the confidence of the Hindus of the state. The gain of the BJP has led to trouble for the Left front.

The Left front was under the anticipation that the lower castes would continue to support it. But the Sabarimala issue has changed this equation. The Left front has recorded a fall in its voting percentage.

The Mathrubhumi News-Geowide India exit poll results show the Left Democratic Front (LDF) vote share coming down from 40 per cent in 2014 to 37 per cent in 2019.

The Manorama News-Karvy Insights give LDF only 36 per cent votes this time.

This shows that the over five per cent additional votes that the NDA garnered this time as compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls have come entirely from the Left and not the United Democratic Front's (UDF’s).

Also, the UDF has gained from the LDF voters as its vote share has increased from 42 per cent to 43 per cent.

The LDF had increased its seats from four in 2009 to eight in 2014 when the BJP vote share saw a substantial increase from 6.44 per cent to 10.81 per cent. This was despite a marginal fall in the LDF vote share from 41.97 per cent in 2009 to 40.11 per cent in 2014.

The LDF has been predicted to stand at the third position in Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta where the BJP has gained. Also, the LDF may have an easy win at Palakkad where the BJP’s vote share has dropped to 12 per cent from 15 per cent.

The exit polls indicate a division in the Hindu votes between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the UDF.

Firstpost has reported that some Congress leaders believed that CM Pinarayi Vijayan had decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict allowing entry to women of all ages in the Ayyaappa temple in a haste hoping that it will take their traditional Hindu votes to the BJP and help his camp indirectly.

In 2014, the UDF won 12 seats while the LDF secured eight seats. The LDF’s performance is attributed to the division in the minority votes that traditionally favored the UDF.

The Left secured Muslim and Christian votes by projecting itself as its saviour playing the Hindutva card against the Congress. The equation has, however, reversed. Rahul Gandhi’s direct fight against the BJP has made Muslims and Christians show faith in the UDF.

The Left is fearful of the BJP’s rise. The BJP’s rise in West Bengal has stripped the Left of its position in the state.

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