Shah is likely to give a call for changing the LDF-UDF paradigm of politics in God’s own country.
GN Bureau | April 2, 2016
After coming to power in India’s only Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir a year ago by becoming a partner of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] mandarins are now preparing to launch a no holds barred election campaign in Kerala, hoping to make a dent in its bipolar politics, and, in the process, charting a ‘Kashmir to Kanyakumari’ victory trail.
On April 9, party president Amit Shah will formally launch the campaign for the May 16 elections from Thiruvananthapuram. This will be followed by prime minister Narendra Modi’s five-day whirlwind tour of the state. Besides them, the party has also detailed five senior cabinet ministers for campaigning in Kerala.
Shah is likely to give a call for changing the LDF-UDF paradigm of politics in God’s own country. BJP’s poll plank is to attack both the Left-led Left Democratic Front [LDF] and the Congress-led United Democratic Front [UDF], which have been taking turns to rule the state, for corruption and also flaunt Modi’s achievements and style of governance.
Winning an election in Kerala has been the dream of the Hindutva party for long. However, so far its candidates had fared poorly though the party had, for the first time, registered a decent 10 percent vote share in 2014 general elections. For years, O Rajagopal – Rajya Sabha member and former minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet - has been the only known face from Kerala in BJP.
This time, however, BJP has a strategy up its sleeves for elections – the basic one being attempts to consolidate Hindu votes by playing upon the perceived fears of Hindus in the face of 2 per cent decline in their population and the rise of Muslim headcount.
As per the 2011 census, Hindus constitute 54.72 percent of the total population in Kerala; Muslims 26.56 percent and Christians 18.38 percent. While Hindu population has seen a decadal decline of 1.5 percent and Christians 0.40 percent, the Muslim population has risen by 2.3 percent.
BJP’s state leadership had been raising the bogey of Kerala losing its Hindu majority character due to disproportionate rise in Muslims population. It is obvious that the campaigning in Kerala assembly elections will be shrill -- and polarising.
Besides, the BJP is hoping to use Modi’s image of a person from backward Hindu caste to swing votes of Ezhavas in its favour. In fact, the party has already roped in a couple of powerful organisations of Ezhava – who constitute 30 percent of Hindus in the state – in its fold. BJP is believed to have secured a tacit support from Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), the largest organisation of the Ezhavas, for elections. The community has supported the left front in the past.
Last year, Modi made a major gesture towards Kerala’s dalits by inaugurating the birth anniversary celebrations of dalit icon Ayyankali in Kochi.
Though the BJP leaders in Delhi claim that they have also secured support of Nair Service Society (NSS), another Hindu caste based organisation, the NSS leaders are yet to confirm it.
The party has also cobbled up a group of disgruntled leaders from other political outfits to field recognisable faces for party’s campaign.
The BJP is also hugely experimenting in Kerala by fielding young candidates like cricketer Sreesanth, knowing well that Kerala voters have never been enamoured of the star power of candidates. While Sreesanth will contest from capital Thiruvananthapuram, television commentator Rahul Easwar, actor Bheeman Reghu and film director Ali Akbar have also been finalised as party’s candidates.
However, analysts feel that Kerala voters are awaiting answers to rising unemployment levels; falling prices of agriculture crops and threats of expatriates working in the gulf countries returning as the conflict there gets extended and may not easily fall to the BJP’s “Hindus in danger” cry.
Going by the past trends, Kerala is expected to elect the Left front government in the coming elections for the 140 seat Assembly elections.
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