BJP seeks to repeat 1999May 4th, 2009 | By Elections2009 | Category: Key constituencies
B. Kolappan, Kanyakumari
This constituency at the southern tip of the country is where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might be in with a chance of winning a seat in what is otherwise Dravidian country.
In a four-cornered contest, the BJP’s Pon Radhakrishnan, who won from here in 1999, and became a Minister in the Union government, is facing the CPI(M)’s sitting MP A.V. Bellarmin, the DMK’s Helen Davidson and the Desiya Murpokku Dra vida Kazhagam (DMDK)’s S.Austin.
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Also in the fray is P. Sivakami, a former IAS officer and BSP candidate, who is banking on the considerable presence of Dalits here.
The Dravidian parties have improved their tallies in the Assembly segments of this constituency and the DMK today represents three of them. The Congress and the CPI(M) represent two each. Winning elections without the support of the Dravidian parties is out of the question now.
The DMK is in the company of the Congress. The CPI(M), which has a strong support base in the western part of the district, has the AIADMK as its alliance partner. Actor Vijayakanth’s DMDK, which has gained popularity among the youth, is going it alone, as is the BJP.
Candidates of all these parties are Nadars, the single largest community in the district. Both Christian and Hindu Nadars are of almost equal strength. Fishermen, who constitute a major chunk of the population, are Roman Catholic. There are also Dalit Christians and Muslims. Most of the other communities are Hindus.
The BJP is trying to cash in on the communal polarisation begun in the 1980s, following the Mandikadu communal riots. Barring Mr. Radhakrishnan, the candidates of the major political parties are Christians. The BJP’s calculations are simple. It is looking for a replay of 1999, when Christian candidates split the votes among themselves, and the Hindu candidate won hands down. In that election, the Congress’ Dennis and TMC’s Kumaradoss split the votes and paved the way for Mr. Radhakrishnan’s election.
Another factor, which the BJP hopes will work in its favour is the inclusion of Kanyakumari Assembly constituency in the Lok Sabha constituency and the substantial presence of Vellalars community there. The Assembly constituency was part of the Tiruchendur Lok Sabha constituency before delimitation. The BJP’s belief is that the nearly 75,000 Vellalars, a forward community, will vote for it en bloc.
But there are other factors, which may upset the BJP’s calculations. First, the BJP won the poll in 1999 because it was part of the DMK alliance. Secondly, the Vellalar votes are unlikely to offset the absence of an alliance partner.
Thirdly, there is no guarantee that all the Hindus will vote for the BJP. Fourthly the Christians, cutting across party lines, might throw their weight behind a single candidate. They have realised that a repeat of 1999 would not be in their interest.
Still the BJP is hoping that the division of Christian votes and the lack of effective co-ordination between the Congress and the DMK (the Congress had demanded the seat, which led to a series of protests) will help it. Also the lack of clarity as to who among the Christian candidates is the forerunner, is keeping the BJP’s hopes alive.