Analysis | BJP's audacity of hope in Thrikkakara bypoll: 40% Christian votes

BJP candidate for Thrikkakara bypoll A N Radhakrishnan during campaign. Photo: Manorama

In the three assembly elections held so far in the Thrikkakara constituency in Kerala's Ernakulam district since its formation in 2011, the BJP's biggest show was garnering 15.7 per cent of votes. That was in 2016, when S Saji, a young district level leader, polled 21,247 votes.

Five years later, in 2021, the same candidate contested again but his vote share came down to 11.34 per cent with 15,483 votes.

Still, the saffron party is aiming high – nothing but a win in Thrikkakara this time, in the bypoll slated for May 31, is the valiant exhortation to cadres.

What lies behind its audacious claim is its hopes about a shift in a major share of Christian votes to the saffron side.

The bypoll was necessitated following the death of sitting Congress legislator P T Thomas.

The BJP has fielded senior leader A N Radhakrishnan to take on Congress' Uma Thomas and CPM's Dr Jo Joseph. The BJP claims Radhakrishnan is the only political candidate in the fray while the other two are accidental candidates.

Thankamani embraces BJP candidate A N Radhakrishnan after party state chief K Surendran announced the decision to build a house for her. Photo: Special arrangement

Uma is the widow of P T Thomas while Joseph, a cardiologist in a private hospital in Kochi, came as a surprise candidate.

The CPM's selection of Joseph had stirred controversy as it was seen as an attempt to woo the Christian voters in the constituency.

However, with the campaign entering its final lap, the BJP is claiming it would benefit from the Christian votes, not the CPM nor the Congress.

The constituency has around 40 per cent Christian voters belonging to various denominations, according to unconfirmed data.

BJP leader P.K. Krishnadas (file photo)

"This time, the Christian community is supporting the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). They have seen through the unholy nexus the Congress and the CPM share with the ultra communal outfits. We are sure that there will be a huge erosion in the traditional vote bases of the two parties this time. That is what we understand from our campaigning on the ground," BJP leader P K Krishnadas told Onmanorama.

The BJP has completed four rounds of door-to-door campaigning in Thrikkakara. One more round will be over in a couple of days. A young BJP leader, who has been camping in Thrikkakara for the past two weeks, said the Christian families in some Muslim-dominated pockets in the constituency were showing unprecedented affinity to his party and candidate.

Krishnadas cited Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's recent election speeches targeting BJP and Sangh Parivar were proof of the CPM's fears of the BJP making inroads into the Christian vote base.

Addressing an election rally on Thursday, Vijayan claimed that the RSS/ Sangh Parivar has carried out 486 attacks on Christians last year alone. He then presented a detailed timeline of events starting with the attack on churches in Gujarat in 1998.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan arriving at Poonithura to campaign for LDF candidate Dr Jo Joseph as part of the upcoming Thrikkakara bypoll. PHOTO: Manorama

The chief minister made the remarks in response to the BJP's claim that the clampdown on hate speech-accused P C George was a targeted onslaught on Christians by the LDF government.

In Thrikkakara, the BJP is flaunting the Poonjar-based politician George, who has been booked for his recent anti-Muslim hate speeches, as a hero of the 'Christian cause'.

A leader of a Catholic laity organisation, however, rubbished the BJP's claims.

"We don't think the BJP is going to get any significant number of votes from Christians. Even the party's celebration of someone like George, who faces a huge credibility crisis is only likely to backfire," he said.

Asked how the BJP was hoping to make a leap in its vote share from a meagre 11 per cent last time, Krishnadas put forward another logic.

P C George addressing the media after being released from Poojapura Central Jail. BJP district president V V Rajesh can also be seen. PHOTO: Manorama News

"If we could make a three-fold jump in our vote share in five years from 2011 to 2016, why can't we increase it now," he asked.

In 2011, the BJP had to settle for just 5 per cent of votes in Thrikkakara. The party increased it to 15.7 per cent in 2016.

The BJP is also hoping a major share of the Twenty20 party's votes will also fall in its kitty. Twenty20, backed by the corporate Kitex Group, had polled over 10 per cent votes in Thrikkakara in 2021 elections.

The party, which recently stitched an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), is not contesting this time.

It has also refused to support any of the three fronts in the fray.

"We have also requested Twenty20's support. Both the CPM and the Congress have tried to destroy Kitex Group's business. Who will they vote for this time if not BJP? During the launch of his party's alliance with the Twenty20, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal attacked both the Congress and CPM alike, but not the BJP," a senior BJP leader said.

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