“Mission 11”, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ambitious plan to conquer Kerala in the general elections of 2019, will be formally launched by party president Amit Shah with a three-day visit to the state beginning Friday, 2 June. His visit is part of the strategy to streamline and strengthen the organisational network at the block-level in constituencies where the party hopes to make inroads in the Lok Sabha elections. According to B.L. Santhosh, national joint organisational secretary of the BJP, the party would concentrate on all 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state, with special attention to 11 segments from where the party polled over two lakh votes each in the 2016 Assembly elections. Kerala is one state where the party is hoping to do well ever since it won an Assembly seat last May, for the first time since the formation of the state in 1956.
It was precisely with this in mind that the party held a three-day national council meeting at Kozhikode in Muslim-dominated north Kerala last September. The meeting was also meant to pay tribute to Deendayal Upadhyaya, who took over as president of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh in Kozhikode 50 years ago in 1967, just a year before his mysterious death. Though the party performance did not come up to the leadership’s expectations in the recently held Lok Sabha byelection from Malappuram, Amit Shah, during his visit hopes to renew efforts to woo minorities to the party fold. The party has also come to realise that its strategy of putting up a local candidate, rather than a national leader, did not win much favour with the electorate even in pockets where Hindus have an upper hand. Some sections in the party were highly critical of state president Kummanam Rajasekharan’s style of functioning. Shah is supposed to look into all these and iron out the differences prevailing between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP state leaders. Also there have been some issues regarding wrong information being given to the media, thereby creating a negative impression among party workers.
But the most important aspect during Shah’s visit will be introduction of an entirely new style of functioning at different levels in the party. The plan is to depute those volunteers who come forward to work for the party at specified areas with specific goals. This may be for a period of six months, one year or even two years, depending on the areas of the volunteers’ preference. Volunteers will be provided accommodation by the party. The BJP’s target group are graduates fresh from college, who will be more receptive to the party ideology and will have lots of enthusiasm to work among the people. Termed as “Vistar Yojna”, the leadership intends to build teams of “party missionaries”, who will work among the people with the zeal and dedication of a missionary. All their expenses will be taken care of by the party. This will be formalised before the next general elections. The party also plans to recruit full-time workers as part of the Deendayal Upadhyaya birth anniversary celebrations. One full-time party worker will be asked to concentrate on five polling booths at least for a fortnight at a stretch. Those selected for this will be given special training. For this ministers and senior leaders of the party will be roped in and camps conducted according to their convenience. These volunteers will be asked to develop personal contacts in each household of their jurisdiction. The state will be divided into eight zones, with each zone in every district under the guidance of a senior BJP leader of that area. Basically, the party expects to fan out to all sections of the people irrespective of caste.
Amit Shah’s visit to the state coincides with the celebrations of one year’s rule by the Left Democratic Front government, which came to power with a lot of promises. The track record of the Pinarayi Vijayan government is nothing much to write about. Instead, it had provided enough ammunition for the opposition parties to train their guns on it. But the opposition including the BJP have failed to capitalise on the follies of the government. Still, compared to the main opposition Congress, the BJP has succeeded to a certain extent in highlighting the failures of the government, especially law and order. During the last year, Vijayan as Home Minister and his police have been apologetic day in and day out. Kannur witnessed nine murders and the tally stands at BJP 6 and CPM 3. Two ministers had to quit, atrocities against women and children go unchecked. There are fissures within the LDF. A rudderless Congress gives ample opportunity for the BJP to fit into an active opposition’s shoes. That is what Amit Shah is hoping to achieve by revamping and reorganising the party apparatus. If elsewhere the party is striving for a Congress-mukt Bharat, in Kerala it is a Communist-mukt state that the BJP is aiming for.