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Friday, April 21, 2006

BJP to break its Kerala jinx?

As Kerala prepares to elect a new assembly from Saturday, the usual question has cropped up: will the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finally open its account?

Statistically speaking, BJP's prospects are not too bright. Its vote share has seen a slide since the 1987 assembly poll.

In 1987, the saffron party managed a 6.47 per cent share, in 1991 5.53 per cent, in 1996 5.48 per cent and in 2001 5.02 per cent, a further slump.

Of the 140 seats in the assembly, the BJP and its associates are contesting all but one seat.

Since 1987 the Manjeswaram seat from Kasaragod district has seen all BJP candidates end in the second place. However, BJP candidate Narayan Bhat claimed: "This time we will win.

"Ever since the campaign began, we have felt that the voters here are looking for a change from the normal practice of sending the same UDF (United Democratic Front) candidate to the assembly."

Another seat where the BJP is putting its money is Kasaragod where again its candidate has ended up as runner-up in the last three successive elections.

And moving down to Palakkad, the BJP has put up former union minister O Rajagaopal to infuse hope in the party veins.

With the party doing extremely well in the local bodies poll in Palakkad last year, hopes are high that this time the BJP will finally break into the Kerala assembly.

Kodungallor - where it has put up Mohan Sankar - and Thiruvananthapuram East - where a BJP-supported candidate is in the fray - are the other two constituencies where the BJP hopes to give their opponents a run for their money.

State BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai said: "All these years the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) backed the UDF in at least two or three seats to keep us out in north Kerala. This is why we were kept out of the assembly.

"We have done enough work with an array of national leaders campaigning in north Kerala for our candidates. If the CPI-M does not play foul like in the past, you wait and see - we will be in the floor of the assembly," Pillai said.

A Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader said the CPI-M, in order to keep the Indian Union Muslim League forces at bay, might not engage in cross voting.

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