As BJP’s Kerala Yatra crossed strife-torn Kannur district, in large part without party president Amit Shah, questions are being raised on the whether it should have been against “red-jihadi terror” or simply the people’s right to live in the Marxist-ruled state, especially BJP supporters. On Day 5 of the 15-day-long rally across the state, many cadres feel that it was a mistake to mix terror unleashed by CPM with that of jihadi terror which is non-existent in the state. “This form of aviyal (a famed Kerala dish of a mix of many vegetables) message failed to cut across to the people in general,” said one worker, who is participating in the yatra. The state has in the past witnessed innumerable rallies by every political party worth its salt criss-crossing the state, especially before Assembly elections. Rather than anything else, these rallies were basically meant as a cover to raise funds for respective parties. Hence, many were indeed looking for something different from BJP’s Janaraksha Yatra, especially at a time when the party has shown signs of emerging as a possible alternative to the time-tested and to a large extent discredited UDF and LDF Fronts that have been ruling the state ever since its formation in 1957. With this yatra, the local BJP leadership too had hoped to widen its base or at and attract more sympathisers to its cause. By singularly targeting CPM, the BJP had made its intentions clear that Congress no more matters in the state. It will be a CPM-BJP direct confrontation in the next Assembly elections, many in the party and outside felt.
But seemingly, things sometimes did not go as well as it should have been for the state BJP and the highly publicised, though twice postponed, yatra. An observer pointed to the belief among Keralites that something once failed is bound to fail thrice. Whatever be the belief, Amit Shah leaving half way through “for urgent work in Delhi” has dampened party spirits. His absence was felt by the cadre. That too while the rally passed through Pinarayi right in front of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s house. His absence brought much relief to the CPM. In the ensuing confusion, state BJP leaders tried to capitalise on the fact that a large number of people gathered to watch the rally pass through, despite an unofficial curfew imposed upon them by the local CPM leadership. Considering the degree of planning of the rally, this was not much of a problem. What actually has damaged the yatra more were those “cooks” who had absolutely no idea of the Kerala menu. It was obvious that the leaders from other states on whom the BJP relied most, had no clue as to the state of things. A Union minister said the “M” in CPM stands for Maoists. He might have thought that it was a great vote getter given the view that how Maoists have become a danger to the country. People of Kerala, mainly those CPM baiters, had a different view about the grasp of Left politics of some of those who arrived from Delhi. It is the very CPM, right from the days of Naxalbari, has done everything to kill the Maoist movement both in West Bengal and Kerala, since the ideology propounded by Charu Mazumdar and company had threatened the very existence of Marxists in national politics. No wonder wise comrades in the CPM simply kept quiet about this. Then there was another leader who said CPM men chopped off the hands of a professor in Kerala, when it was a case of Islamist terror, perhaps raising its head for the first time in Kerala. And there are many in BJP who wonder whether the presence of Yogi Adityanath had helped the cause of the party in the state. In a state like Kerala, where political awareness is much above than anywhere else in the country, Yogi’s presence was noted by even ordinary people on the streets. His utterance that “violence should not have any place in democracy”, coming from Uttar Pradesh, was greeted with utmost surprise by the general public and with a pinch of salt by party workers.
There were so many issues crying for attention in the state that the yatris could have highlighted. Foremost is the fact that there is scant difference in governance from the Congress in the one and a half years of Left Front government, which had come to power with the promise to change everything. There is no end to political killings, atrocities against women and children are on the rise, land mafia is tightening its grip over the government, new-born babies are dying by the day in the Adivasi colonies of Attappadi, farm sector is in doldrums. Issues galore, the state is looking for an alternative thought. But this yatra proved incapable of setting an agenda for the development of this southern state despite the rising support for the BJP.