Analysis | BJP surge gives UDF, LDF no joy in Attingal

Adoor Prakash, V Muraleedharan, V Joy. Photo: Manorama

On a day when Thrissur made history and Thiruvananthapuram nearly gave a heartbreak for Shashi Tharoor, Attingal sprang a cliffhanger. Sitting MP Adoor Prakash eventually got by with a slender margin of 684 votes -- the lowest victory margin recorded in Kerala LS polls this year.

Considering he had won with a majority of 38,000 votes in 2019, the narrow margin was clear enough that he had to sweat it out this time. He was up against CPM Thiruvananthapuram district secretary and Varkala MLA V Joy, who had the entire CPM machinery at his disposal. Besides, all the seven assembly constituencies had LDF MLAs. It looked like a cakewalk for V Joy.

On the other hand, Adoor Prakash had brushed aside rumours of being a reluctant candidate and had lived up to his status as a poll master. He is known to assemble and manage a team of his own during election campaigning, something that worked to his advantage in 2019 even while he was aided by a pro-UDF wave, which buffeted Kerala.

The final figures on Tuesday gave a bigger picture of what the two fronts may have missed which made the contest a stiffly fought three-cornered battle. Adoor Prakash's vote share slumped from 37.8 per cent to 33.29 per cent between 2019 and 2024. As for the LDF, the vote share dipped from 34.07 per cent to 33.22 per cent. BJP increased the vote share in a predominantly leftist constituency from 24.66 per cent to 31.64 per cent, an increase of 6.9 percentage points. BJP candidate V Muraleedharan garnered 65,277 additional votes this year. The result was that when BJP dug deep into the votes of LDF and UDF, both their candidates never got a steady lead. The first four hours of counting saw the lead swinging both ways, but neither managing to run away with the contest. The pull came from V Muraleedharan.

Information gathered from party sources indicate that Muraleedharan gained lead in Kattakada, Attingal and Chirayinkeezhu assembly constituencies. In 2019, Sobha Surendran had taken lead only in Attingal. BJP was aiming at polling 3.15 lakh votes. They had banked on its organisational prowess in Aruvikkara assembly constituency and hoped to put up a decent fight at Nedumangadu. Both the constituencies didn't go BJP's way which in turn favoured Adoor Prakash. BJP got less number of votes in Nedumangadu than it had projected. In Vamanapuram and Aruvikkara, UDF gained a commendable lead, which in fact salvaged Adoor Prakash in the final round.

LDF and UDF failed to see what was coming although the 2021 assembly election results clearly portended the threat posed by the BJP. P Sudheer, BJP candidate, had polled 25.92 per cent vote share in 2021 assembly elections and come second to LDF candidate O S Ambika.

What Sobha Surendran had laid in 2019 was being built on brick by brick, first by P Sudheer and then by V Muraleedharan. ''He had worked actively here for the past two years. Even at the beginning of K-rail protests, he was at the forefront here. He chose Attingal constituency to launch important projects. All that resulted in increasing the vote share,'' a BJP party member who was part of the campaign said.

LDF admits that there was a split in votes partly because of the BJP effect and a polarisation of minority votes. While the Hindu votes mostly went to the BJP, the minority votes deflected towards the Congress because there was a strong sentiment against the state government. Attingal may no longer be served on a platter for both CPM and Congress. This year, all the three fronts pocketed more than 3 lakh votes. BJP's growth trajectory in Attingal is likely to unnerve Congress even while basking in the joy of a sweeping victory in Kerala. In 2014, BJP candidate had managed a measly vote share of 10.53 per cent, not even crossing 1 lakh votes. Both the CPM and the Congress will now learn not to ignore the signs.

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