PK Kunhalikutty, 66, the IUML's winning candidate pointed out that he has "won comfortably even in CPM strongholds," and described the result as a "lesson to BJP that petty politics over beef will take them nowhere in Kerala."
The reference was to BJP candidate N Sreeprakash's campaign promise of "quality beef" for Malappuram's voters. Mr Sreeprakash had promised to supply good quality beef from "clean, air conditioned slaughterhouses," telling voters that the BJP was not against beef consumption but only against illegal slaughter houses. He had to clarify a day later that he was against cow slaughter and stood by the party's national policy on the matter.
Mr Sreeprakash's comments, denounced by his own party colleagues in Kerala, were seen as an attempt to woo about a lakh new voters added since the last election to the constituency, which is Muslim- dominated and was won by the IUML's E Ahamed for seven terms. By-elections had to be held in Mallapuram after Mr Ahamad died in February this year.
Mr Kunhaikutty polled 515,330 lakh votes today. Left candidate MB Faisal of the CPM was a distant second, even in areas where the ruling Left Democratic Alliance is strong. The ruling alliance had sought votes for the performance of its government over the last ten months since winning assembly elections in the state last year.
The BJP had hoped to increase the number of votes it polled this time to about 1.5 lakh from 64,705 three years ago, but ended up with an increase of only about a 1000 odd votes and the fall in vote share.
The BJP has not been a major player in Kerala's electoral politics, but party chief Amit Shah has been making consistent efforts to make inroads in the state as he attempts to spread his party's influence in states it has not traditionally been strong in.
The party won no parliament seat in Kerala in 2014, but upped its vote share in the state by 4 percent. In the assembly elections last year, the BJP won one seat in the assembly, securing around 14 per cent of the vote share.