Will BJP succeed in diluting politics from Red to Saffron in Kerala?

The Left-government state has so far kept Hindutva politics out of power, hence the BJP offer of ‘pol power’ to hundreds of Christian and Muslim candidates

Image Courtesy:india.com

After Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and just days after a high powered campaign in Hyderabdad, municipal elections the  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has now fielded 500 Christian and 112 Muslim candidates for local body elections in Kerala. This is one of the biggest inclusion of candidates from two major votebanks that the saffron party hopes to woo and set roots in Kerala, a state that has so far been out of their political reach.

In Kerala, Muslims and Christians account for 45 percent of the state’s population. Over the past few years there has been a massive rightwing activation by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but so far has not helped the BJP to make its political presence felt in the Left-governed state. It managed to win only one seat in the state legislature.

The local bodies’ elections are due on December 8, 10 and 14 and the results are expected on December 16 stated news reports. According to a report in MattersIndia, the state has total 27,656,579 voters: 13,172,629 male, 14,483,668 female and 282 transgender. According to the report, around 54,494 candidates are standing for 941 grama panchayats;  6,877 candidates are contesting in 152 block panchayats, and 1,317 will contest in 14 district panchayats. The 87 municipalities in the state have 10,339 candidates and the six corporations have 1,986 candidates, according to the news report.

At 8,497, Malappuram has the most candidates and Wayanad has the least number of candidates with only 1,858 in the fray. The BJP knows that it needs the support of both Christians and Muslims to make its presence felt in the municipal corporations. As it was seen in Hyderabad, the party is expected to send its star campaigners Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to the state, stated a report in India Today reported. This is telling because these two North Indian leaders, who are known across the country for their volatile oration are likely to attract audiences for the events they appear in. Which the party hopes will translate into votes from the minority community, both of which are not their traditional vote banks.

According to news reports they seem to be in damage control mode and are thus ignoring its leader KS Easwarappa, who indulges in communal hate speech by stating that the BJP will not give tickets to Muslims in the upcoming Lok Sabha byelections. Now, the BJP is hoping to present itself as a third political power after the CPIM-led LDF and the Congress-led UDF with candidates from minority communities. 

A report in The Wire recalled that this “inclusive strategy” of the BJP’s was seen with the high-profile induction of Tom Vadakkan once a Congress strongman in Kerala in April,  and CPIM’s AP Abdullakutty in June last year. The report elucidated how Abdullakutty, a two-time Lok Sabha MP on the ticket, was expelled by the CPIM in 2009 after he praised Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister. He then joined the Congress and was eventually expelled from here too because he once again praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the second Lok Sabha win. He then formally joined the BJP. Party president JP Nadda then appointed Abdullakutty vice-president and Tom Vadakkan spokesperson.  

The municipal corporations’ elections are the first step for the BJP which is now making no bones that it is attempting to directly woo the Christian and Muslim communities, the large number of candidates from each is likely to ensure a decent enough haul for the party in the overall tally. This is the test laboratory for the party which is already in preparation mode to set up its plan of action for the Kerala assembly elections due next year. 

Perhaps confuse (the voter) and rule is the new political strategy that sounds much better than divide and rule! 


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