By holding its National Council meeting in the “dream city” of Kozhikode in Kerala after 50 years, the BJP has tactically opened a window to the crucial general elections in 2019, with a clear eye on the voters of this southern state. It was almost to the date in 1967, that the then Bharatiya Jana Sangh held its convention in this port city and elected its longstanding general secretary, the late Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya as president of the party whose birth centenary celebrations the BJP has launched nationwide from here. Though the three-day convention attended by over 1,700 delegates including a host of Central ministers and Chief Ministers from all BJP-ruled states discussed a whole gamut of issues, it was clear that the focus was on 2019. And in this scheme of things, party president Amit Shah hoped the BJP’s Kerala unit would play an important role. Terming the session as historic, he said “this land of Lord Parasurama was like a pilgrimage for all workers, as this is where Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya had begun his journey as the president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1967 transforming the political scenario of the country with his philosophy of uplift of the last man.” What he did not say explicitly was that he has already chalked out a two-pronged strategy, one at the ideological and the other at the ground level, to lead the BJP back to power at the Centre and win at least 12 Lok Sabha seats from Kerala. Since there are allegations of growing dissensions within the state unit, which might affect its chances, henceforth they will be under the direct scrutiny of the central leadership. Amit Shah has apparently conveyed this to the state party leaders.
At the ideological level, there will be a concerted effort to take Upadhyaya’s “Ekatma Manavata Darshan (single spirit of humanity or integral humanism)” to the common worker of the party as well as common man, along with the principle of Antyodaya, which focuses on poverty eradication, prosperity of farmers and employment generation. This is based on the Gandhian philosophy of gram swaraj, which the BJP feels that its earlier avatar, Jana Sangh propagated even before the Congress. Since the degeneration of capitalism and the demise of communism, the party think tank feels that the relevance of Upadhyaya’s Ekatma Manavata has increased manifold in these 50 years. More than anywhere else, Kerala will witness a move to take these ideals to the grassroots level in the next one year.
At the ground level, the Kerala BJP will be working overtime to strengthen and spread its base. The target is “from one MLA to Chief Minister” in the next 10 years. The question being asked repeatedly is if the party could, from two MPs of Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani’s time produce a Prime Minister in 12 years, why cannot Kerala have a BJP Chief Minister in ten years? The party draws a lot of inspiration from its performance in local body and the recent Assembly elections, where it opened its account for the first time after the formation of the state in 1956. The people’s disillusionment with the bipolar politics of the Congress-led United Democratic Front and CPM-led Left Front is growing by the day. That the party did benefit by bringing on board the Ezhava community through its alliance with the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, was reflected in the Assembly elections, where it has crossed the 15% vote share and came second in almost eight constituencies. BDJS helped the party cut into the vote share of both the Fronts, though the larger casualty was the UDF, which was humiliated and voted out of power. The BJP’s reading is that the success of the Left Democratic Front was mainly due to the bogey of communalism, which it successfully whipped up, especially among the Muslim community in north Kerala. Hence, the conscious clarion call to party workers to work for the uplift of minority-Dalit sections of society. On the soil of Malabar, taking the name of known Muslim warriors like Kunjali Marakkar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi let party supporters who had gathered at the Kozikode beach know what the future beckons. It may not be easy for the party to woo those Muslims belonging to the Muslim League, but it hopes that in the long run they can instil confidence among those Muslims owing allegiance to Marxists, which is not a small share.
As for the Christian community, the BJP is making the right moves. Former state Finance Minister and Kerala Congress stalwart K.M. Mani, who has broken his association of over three decades with the UDF, is not a stranger to BJP. Neither Mani, nor to a large extent do some of the powerful bishops consider BJP a pariah. The state party president, Kummanom Rajasekharan, is equally at ease with the Church as he is with the powerful Nair Service Society. Interestingly, there was a large contingent of Christian heads of various bishop houses waiting for the Prime Minister to finish his address and reach the guest house for an audience.
All these will bring the BJP or the NDA combine in direct confrontation with the ruling Marxists. It will not be an exaggeration to consider that future elections in the state will witness a direct battle between the BJP and the CPM. Already the atmosphere is charged up, with the BJP accusing the CPM of butchering its cadre. The CPM has vowed to take on the BJP, both with brain and brawn. They are out to make the first strike by throwing RSS shakhas out of temple premises. This has been preceded by the party emulating, rather trying to usurp, many a Hindu religious tradition. Deshabhimani, the CPM mouthpiece, in a scathing editorial has charged the media of giving undue space to the BJP meet and openly “espousing the Hindutva agenda” of the party. It had singled out the venerable old lady of Malayalam journalism, Mathrubhumi, known for its leanings towards the Indian National Congress, for this.
There is considerable rise in political violence, especially in north Kerala, ever since the LDF has come to power. Both Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah made it a point to make direct mention of this. “In Kerala, workers of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and BJP have sacrificed their lives… At some point of time, their sacrifices will bear fruit. Destiny of Kerala will change and BJP will be instrumental in doing it,” PM Modi said. His party chief Shah said, “They (Marxists) are thinking that they would be able to stop the growth of BJP in Kerala through violent attacks. They are wrong. BJP will further gather strength despite such attacks.” Rajasekharan chipped in: “They only know the language of violence and indulge in it more when in power.” Clearly, the battle lines have been drawn and the Congress, a thoroughly dispirited and disjointed lot, can only stand a mute spectator, raising apprehension about the growing violence in the state, which is a reality. As always, blood is bound to be spilt when battles for territorial supremacy occur irrespective of place or creed.
There is a wild growth known as Communist Pachcha (green) in Kerala. The name apparently derived from the rampant growth of communism in the state. Now, they say, the BJP is trying to emulate that same growth. What name it assumes is anybody’s guess.