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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Amit Shah in Kerala and revival of BJP in Kerala



BJP president Amit Shah is expected to arrive in Kerala tomorrow (August 31). Kerala media have published many speculative reports on his mission. All reports agree at one point; Shah seems to be on a mission to give a boost to the the prospects of BJP in Kerala ahead of local body election. But how? Only Amit Shah knows. Borrowing a cliche from Mainstream Media informed sources in RSS say RSS had already begun (even before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections) work to ensure victory of BJP candidates in their strongholds.

BJP sympathisers across the state expect that Amit Shah who worked wonders for the party in Uttar Pradesh will have a panacea for all the ills faced by party Kerala unit. But it is not known whether Kerala BJP leaders share the same enthusiasm. Kerala BJP is sore over the lack of consideration shown by BJP central leadership towards their senior leaders. But it is also doubtful if BJP has many leaders in the state who merit such consideration.

Perhaps Shah who is a calm, wise, astute and a ruthless taskmaster has already made his assessment on the state as to why BJP has failed to make any inroads in Kerala. Let us have a look at the scenario in Kerala.

The usual argument for the failure of BJP to make inroads in Kerala is its huge minority population which accounts to 45 plus per cent of total population. However this is a lame excuse as NDA candidate PC Thomas had won from the Christian dominated Moovattupuzha Lok Sabha constituency earlier defeating LDF and UDF.

Lesson 1. Right BJP candidates with right strategy and right alliances can be victorious even in Kerala’s minority dominated constituencies.
The second argument of BJP is that LDF and UDF gang up when there is a strong chance of BJP victory and in the last minute BJP victory is subverted.
They corroborate arguments pointing out that BJP leader O Rajagopal was defeated in 2014 from Thiruvananthapuram constituency by just around 14,000 votes. BJP candidates who contested Kerala assembly elections from Kasaragod and Manjeswaram constituencies ended up second. They were expected to win but were defeated as LDF and UDF entered into a tacit understanding in the final moments to defeat BJP.

Lesson 2. There is some merit in this argument. But if one finishes second repeatedly to different opponents, it is not merely the opponents’ strength, it is also the runner-up’s weakness. Simple fact is an influential, shrewd election manager who can snatch the wind out of the sails of the opponent was never appointed by BJP to ensure victory in its candidates in important constituencies. Such a manager would study nuances of local politics in advance and identify chinks the opponents’ armour and will strike there. Majority of BJP candidates who came second did not have the killer instinct to secure victory by all means. Remember those who are desperate to win eventually wins. Tharoor has showed it at Thiruvananthapuram. So a good election campaign manager is as important as a good candidate.

BJP has the great idea of uniting all Hindus. But remember it will take much time to achieve this. Caste is one of the key factors that influence voters even now in Kerala.

Lesson 3. BJP needs to get the strong support of either Nairs or Ezhavas and support it with more votes from other Hindu castes and Christians to win election in Kerala. According to the last socio-political census of Kerala Nairs constitute more than 16% of Kerala population while Ezhavas constitute just over 22 per cent. Of these two, Nairs are traditionally pro Congress while Ezhavas are pro-CPM, according to political pundits. At present, different estimates say around 20 per cent of Nairs vote for BJP. The influence of BJP in Nair majority Thiruvananthapuram district supports this. According to certain other estimates, only less than 10 per cent of Ezhavas vote for BJP. But it is true BJP is gaining more ground among Ezhavas. But it will take much more time and effort if BJP is to win the support of more Ezhavas. 

As a strategy, Weaning away Ezhava/Thiyya cadres of CPM to BJP is not so easy. The secular teachings of Sree Narayana Guru (spiritual leader from ezhava community), Sahodaran Ayyappan and others and communist ideology have many agreements. This has been interpreted by CPM to their advantage and the party has strong support from community members. Eventhough the current leader of Ezhavas, Vellappally Natesan has a soft corner for BJP, he never goes public about it. Moreover organisationally CPM kerala unit is stronger than Bengal unit and weaning away its cadres is more difficult than in Bengal. So it is clear. It needs and intelligent strategy and herculean (Or Bhageerathan) hard work for BJP to win influence among Ezhavas. If BJP needs to gain influence quickly, then win the support of majority of Nair voters and take them away from the Congress. They will win a few seats in Kerala. Remember also that upper section of Christians and Nairs vote similarly. Though NSS has never publicly supported BJP, interests of Nairs and ideology of BJP have several meeting points.

At present Congress has strong influence among Nairs in Kerala because of the presence of a large number of tall leaders from the community including Ramesh Chennithala, K Muraleedharan, KC Venugopal, V D Satheesan, Shashi Tharoor, PC Vishnunath and many more. These leaders individually manage to win votes of even BJP sympathisers when they contest which eventually costs BJP dear.
BJP does not have such a leadership line from Nair community who can attract voters.

Some say other parties in Kerala consider BJP as an untouchable  and hostile conditions make it difficult for them to work.
  
Lesson 4. Yes there is some logic in the argument. But it is also true that BJP doesn’t have many credible leaders even in state level; not to speak of district and local level leaders. Though BJP has support of the middle class, one may not find many leaders in BJP who have risen from the Middle class. More people from respectable background, like teachers, senior advocates, professionals and intelligentia need to be incorporated in the leadership to win the confidence of middle class. To sum up BJP leadership needs to induct some new faces at different levels.

Many district and local level leaders of BJP don’t have much experience and one cannot find many BJP leaders who have worked in student and youth wings. Coopt into BJP leaders from different sections who have a sizeable support of their own.

Lesson 5. Many BJP candidates in elections get votes of party workers and sympathisers but they themselves cannot bring many outside votes to BJP. BJP needs to have influential people as their candidates in election who can bring votes to the party. But LDF and UDF candidates in elections are influential people who attract votes on their own apart from party votes. Eg. Film actor Innocent won from Chalakkudy to Lok Sabha this time.

The final and most important reason for BJP’s failure to win in Kerala is their inability to garner votes of all groups of sympathisers. Sangh Parivar in total is more powerful than Congress in many parts of Kerala. Perhaps only CPM can match the strength of Sangh Parivar if all parties contest individually in Kerala. But it seems different sangh organisations often have ego clashes and they never coordinate during elections.
These are views of a layman. It is sure that Shah knows more about BJP and he has already started administering panancea.


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