Mr Chandrasekhar is an MP from the Rajya Sabha

Setting up a possible mouth-watering contest in a state where it had failed to win even a single seat in 2019, the BJP has fielded Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, a constituency held by senior Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor for three straight terms.

This will be the first Lok Sabha contest for Mr Chandrasekhar, who is the Minister of State for Information Technology and Skill Development, and is currently an MP from the Rajya Sabha.

The choice of the Union Minister for the Thiruvananthapuram seat is an indication of the BJP’s focus on the southern states, where it had failed to make a significant dent in 2019, winning only 29 of the 129 seats (130 including Puducherry). At 25, most of these came from Karnataka and the remaining from Telangana. Both of those states are now ruled by the Congress. 

In a sign of the uphill battle that Mr Chandrasekhar is likely to face, veteran BJP leader O Rajagopal had heaped praise on Mr Tharoor in January and said that it would be difficult to defeat the Congress leader in the Kerala capital as he has been able to “sway the minds of the people”. 

“That is why he has been winning again and again from Thiruvananthapuram. I doubt anyone else will get an opportunity to win from there in the near future,” he had said, before backtracking a day later. 

Having set itself a target of winning 370 seats on its own in the Lok Sabha polls – up from the 303 it had won in 2019 – the BJP is looking at the southern states to help it get to this number. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Tamil Nadu and Kerala for a two-day visit just this week. 

At 39, Tamil Nadu sends the fifth-highest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha, while Kerala accounts for 20. The BJP had not won even a single seat in either of the states in 2019.

In the list of 195 names released by the BJP on Saturday, 12 names were announced for Kerala. 

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