Thiruvananthapuram: The emotive Sabarimala row in which senior BJP leaders played a key role failed to help the party open its account in the Lok Sabha battle in Kerala.
With counting of votes reaching its last round in Kerala, the Congress and its United Democratic Front (UDF) were poised to grab 19 of the 20 seats, leaving only one seat to the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
The usual best showing for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came in Thiruvananthapuram where it finished second while ending up in the third spot in all other 19 constituencies.
When Suresh Gopi, a Rajya Sabha member, was asked to contest from Thrissur, the BJP brass had high hopes that they would win two seats.
But Gopi finished way behind the Congress and the Left.
In Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor of Congress, aiming for a hat-trick of wins, increased his lead up from 15,000 votes in 2014 to over 86,000 votes.
It was a blow to Kummanem Rajasekheran, who quit as the Mizoram Governor to take on Tharoor.
At Pathanamthitta, one of the BJP's popular faces, K. Surendran, who was jailed for over two weeks during the Sabarimala agitation, led for a while in the vote count before being relegated to the third position.
State BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai failed to elaborate on the impact of Sabarimala issue.
State Congress President Mullapally Ramachandran said the Sabarimala issue did surface in the polls and the arrogance of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan helped them to win.
But CPI-M state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Thursday said the cause of this unexpected setback for the Left was the consolidation of minority voters behind the UDF.
CPI leader Kanam Rajendran said despite the BJP trying its best to fan communal flames using the Sabarimala issue, it failed to make any gains.
Since September 28 last year, when the Supreme Court ordered the shrine to open its doors to all women, the state has been torn between the Left government firm on implementing the order and the Hindutva brigade led by the RSS adamant on protecting the traditions.