BJP the dark horse in Kerala by-election

June 1st, 2012 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Thiruvananthapuram, June 1 (IANS) In Saturday’s Neyattinkara by-election in Kerala, where elections have always been a battle between the Congress and the Left, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is, for the first time, being touted as the dark horse.

The BJP is yet to open its account in the 140-member Kerala assembly.

With a day to go before the polling, analysts say the battle is wide open because of strong political undercurrents in the constituency.

The BJP candidate, 83-year-old former union minister O. Rajagopal, who is a veteran of many electoral battles, poses a stiff challenge to both F. Lawrence of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), and to R.Selvaraj, who has become the Congress candidate after deserted the CPI-M recently.

Selvaraj had won the Neyattinkara seat as the CPI-M’s candidate in the April 2011 assembly elections by a comfortable margin. He, however, resigned from the party this March, saying that he was being sidelined by party bosses, and surrendered his seat, necessitating the by-election.

A month later Selvaraj joined the Congress party.

“Deserters should be shown their place, hence people going to the polling booths on June 2nd should vote and elect the CPI-M candidate,” declared Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, who has been the biggest crowd puller for the CPI-M candidate.

On the other hand, Defence Minister A.K. Antony cautioned the voters during the campaign that if Selvaraj did not win, then CPI-M inspired political violence would pose a major threat.

“I think Selvaraj has already won,” Antony said.

Former BJP state president C.K.Padmanabhan asked the electorate to reject both the Congress and the Left, which he said were unreliable. Vote, instead, for Rajagopal, whose performance as a minister in the Vajpayee (BJP) government had been appreciated by Keralites across the political spectrum, he said.

With considerable political status at stake in this by-poll, many undercurrents seem to be at work.

Various social groups like the Nair Service Society (Hindu Nairs), Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangom ( Hindu Ezhavas) and the Vaikundaswami Dharma Pracharana Sabha (VSDP), representing Hindu Nadars, have, after initially expressing very strong anti-Congress feelings, turned silent.

The major Christian congregations - Latin, and Anglican and Protestant churches represented by the Church of South India (CSI) - have a strong presence in the constituency, and all three candidates have been wooing the church.

The CPI-M has been feeling the heat this month with the brutal murder of T.P. Chandrasekharan, a former party leader who turned rebel. Many CPI-M activists are either in custody, or are being investigated for various cases of political killings in the state.

It is the alarming rise in political violence in Kerala and the consequent climate of fear that is giving the BJP hopes of opening its electoral account in the state.

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