Congress’ Thrissur dilemma: Where did 10% votes go?

Thrissur candidates
K Muraleedharan, Suresh Gopi, VS Sunil Kumar. Photo: Onmanorama

The Thrissur shocker in the Lok Sabha elections has stirred a hornet’s nest within the Congress' Kerala unit and the party will have a tough time explaining how its candidate ended up third even as the BJP grabbed the seat. Senior party leader K Muraleedharan was deployed to retain the seat held by T N Prathapan as the Congress thought it would be difficult for the latter to resist the BJP’s aggressive attempts to capture the constituency.

However, when the results came out on Tuesday, Muraleedharan was at the receiving end while BJP’s star candidate Suresh Gopi had the last laugh. CPI’s V S Sunil Kumar came second holding on to the Left Democratic Front’s (LDF) vote share. The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) witnessed an erosion of the votes it had polled in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Read: Analysis | BJP’s ‘Project Suresh Gopi’ succeeds in Thrissur. How?

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) added 1,18,516 more votes to its kitty this time compared to the 2019 figure. The LDF polled 16,196 more votes whereas the UDF’s count came down by 86,965. The LDF saw a slight increase in its vote share from 30.85 per cent to 30.95 per cent while UDF’s share dropped to 30.08 per cent from 39.83 per cent. NDA’s vote share went up to 37.80 per cent from 28.19 per cent.
The numbers bring trouble for the Congress as it looks like its loss is BJP’s gain.

Of the the seven assembly constituencies, which make Thrissur Lok Sabha segment, NDA has surged ahead in six. The saffron front was ahead in Manalur by 8,013 votes, Ollur (10,363), Thrissur (14,117), Nattika (13,945), Irinjalakuda (13,016) and Puthukad (12,692). The UDF gained lead only in Guruvayur. In 2019, the UDF was ahead in all seven assembly segments. That time, the NDA had come second in one assembly segment and was pushed to the third slot in rest of the seats. The BJP recorded its highest margin in Thrissur assembly segment where it had come in second position in 2019.

Though the LDF won all the seven assembly seats in 2021, it could not find an edge in any of those this time. In the six segments where BJP emerged ahead, LDF came second in four and UDF in two.

In Guruvayur, which has a sizeable Muslim population, the UDF still had a lead of 12,876 votes. In the other assembly segments, the difference between the votes polled by the BJP and the Congress was huge -- Manalur (10,299), Ollur (11,357), Thrissur (14,117), Nattika (28,659), Irinjalakuda (13,016) and Puthukad (19,920).

The numbers question the Congress’ argument that the CPM traded votes to BJP. The shock result has already triggered discontent within the Congress state unit. Posters propped up on Wednesday in Thrissur calling for the resignation of District Congress Committee (DCC) president Jose Valloor’s resignation. He has taken responsibility for the defeat even though he denied allegations of organisational failure.

A dejected Muraleedharan, soon after the results, said he was taking a break from public life and has decided not to attend party meetings from now. In response, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief K Sudhakaran on Wednesday said Muraleedharan could not be kept away from the party and there will be a probe into what happened in Thrissur.

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