The Bharatiya Janata Party-National Democratic Alliance, which fought the April 2 assembly polls with the fancy claim of winning at least 35 seats in Kerala, on Sunday came a cropper as it failed to retain even its lone segment Nemom, even as all its major contestants, including 'Metro man' E Sreedharan and party state chief K Surendran, fell by the wayside.
The saffron party's poll ride came to a grinding halt in the state as former Mizoram governor Kummanam Rajasekharan, who was entrusted to retain Nemom in the state capital, failed to repeat the magic created by party veteran O Rajagopal there in the 2016 assembly elections.
Ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist leader and Left Democratic Front candidate V Sivankutty wrested the segment back by a margin of 3,949 votes.
The success was also sweet revenge for Sivankutty this time as he had suffered an unexpected blow during the last assembly election when the BJP opened its maiden account in Nemom.
Rajagopal had defeated Sivankutty by 8,671 votes during the 2016 assembly polls.
Retaining the seat was a matter of prestige for the saffron party as the ruling CPM had left no stone unturned to deny them another chance in the 140-member assembly.
Barely a week before the election, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that the CPM would close the BJP's first-ever account in the state this time.
"The BJP opened their first ever account in Kerala as a result of match-fixing with Indian National Congress. This time around, we will close their account, for sure," Vijayan had said in a video shared on his Twitter handle.
Besides losing the lone seat, the saffron party also failed to showcase a striking performance as expected in any of the constituencies, where it had high stakes like Palakkad, Malampuzha, Manjeswaram and Kazhakoottam.
Though 88-year-old Sreedharan maintained a steady lead in Palakkad right from the beginning, creating an impression that he would be able to deny young MLA, Shafi Parambil, the sitting seat, luck turned otherwise for the former technocrat and he lost by 3,859 votes.
Actor-turned Rajya Sabha MP, Suresh Gopi, who contested from Thrissur, came in the first position in several rounds of counting, but was pushed back to the distressing third position when the final votes were counted.
Former Union minister K J Alphons did not create any stir in Kanjirappally and lost.
In an embarrassment to the BJP leadership, the party chief K Surendran lost in both constituencies -- Manjeswaram and Konni.
While Surendran lost by a slender margin of 745 votes at Manjeswaram to IUML's A K M Ashraf, he ended up in third position in Konni in Pathanamthitta district, where the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple is located.
Senior leader Sobha Surendran, who had launched a massive campaign in Kazhakoottam constituency raising the Sabarimala women's entry issue, could not upset Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran's applecart, as he won by an emphatic margin of23,497 votes.
A large number of national leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union ministers like Amit Shah, Nirmala Sitharaman, Rajnath Singh and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had vigorously campaigned for the BJP candidates raising the Sabarimala issue and 'love jihad,' besides levelling corruption charges against the LDF government.
Throughout the election campaign, the BJP state leadership had maintained that the party would win at least in 35 seats and would become a force to reckon with in the state's rule.
Though opposition parties had mocked them for their fancy claim, they went on repeating it.
Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac on Sunday tweeted: "We have closed the account that BJP opened in the Kerala assembly in the 2016 election. Kerala has become the only assembly in India that has no representative from BJP."
The Left leader also said Kerala would remain the citadel of secularism in the country.
Asked about the party's drubbing, Surendran told reporters that its candidates have secured second position in many constituencies.
He also cited 'communal polarisation' as the reason for the party's drubbing and said there was a conscious attempt to defeat the BJP-NDA.
"We could not win the expected seats. There was a polarisation of Muslim votes in constituencies where the NDA was pinning hopes.
“There was communal polarisation in Nemom, Palakkad and Manjeswaram," he alleged.
By losing the lone seat, Kerala has once again become a hard nut to crack for the saffron party.