When BJP grabbed UP, it had restored its dominance in its traditional Hindi heartland. From Rajasthan to Assam barring Bihar, BJP could register itself as a singular pole in Indian politics. Nevertheless, BJP can become a truly pan Indian party, if it enters states where they have no or low presence. Bengal, Odisha, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana are in the reckoning to be consolidated. These states virtually have given BJP no or less parliamentary Lok Sabha seats. But their emerging vote share and promising grass root level build up is increasingly helping the party to think big in these states.
However, symbolically, no state can be as prominent as the state of Kerala for the BJP to gain traction and grow. Kerala has the political properties of two states. Like West Bengal, it is a communist citadel and one of the few states where communism is still prevalent. It is important to note that after TMC decimated the left in Bengal, Kerala happens to be the only major state where they are muscled in power. Secondly, it follows Tamil Nadu model where two parties alternatively come to power in the form of the Congress and the Communists. Kerala has been their strongholds since decades.
As BJP unleashed Modi wave across the country, policy like demonetization has furthered its growth even in local municipal bodies. Looking at these prospects, BJP may have its best bet yet at taking a shot over the state of Kerala. What are the chances for the BJP in Kerala?
BJP president Amit Shah has landed in Kerala for three days stay as a part of his 95 day tour ‘Vishtar yatra’. The visit is significant as he may strategize on extrapolating BJP growth in Kerala. BJP has a significantly emerging vote share and the core challenge will be to convert it into seats and numbers. Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats for grabs and the BJP this time in 2019 may want seats in the south as a back up resource for any seats they may lose in the north.
There is no doubt in the churning alternative dominance of UDF and LDF, NDA and the BJP is emerging as the third option. Somewhere Amit Shah wants to position the BJP as the only alternative. BJP saw its vote share rise from 6.3% in 2011 to a significantly near about 16% in the last assembly elections. Although it failed to convert it into electoral numbers, it could still win its maiden assembly seat. This was a much-needed psychological benchmark which was an evidence of the fact that BJP has made inroads into the state. Due to shift in the vote share, UDF lost 26 seats in the Hindu belt. But the benefit of it went to the LDF. Even if BJP could muster just one seat, importantly it came runners up in six seats. The BJP formed an alliance with the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam’s (SNDP) political wing Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS); social activist C K Janu’s political outfit Janadhipathya Ooru Vikasana Munnani (JOVM); and the P C Thomas-led faction of Kerala Congress.
Its marginal success in the assembly should help BJP do better and replicate something they did in Odisha.
There’s however a secret to conquering Kerala and that is the way the Population blocks stack up. The population in the state of Kerala is split into 55-45 percent where 55 percent are the majority. The rest contains minorities which includes Christians and Muslims. As a matter of fact, Amit Shah was scheduled to meet the representatives of the Syrian, Latin and the Orthodox rites in the Renewal Centre at Kaloor. BJP president of Kerala had personally invited Syro-Malabar church head Cardinal George Alenchery and Verapoly Archbishop. With a Hindu population slated to be around 55 per , wooing the Church and a significant number of Christians would help BJP emerge as a force in the state. For retaining the majority, attempts will be made to reach out to Nair Service Society (NSS) or the Ezhava community and even lower caste Hindus and Dalits.
The visit by Amit Shah is also aimed at increasing the NDA fold by including smaller allies like KM Mani led Kerala congress. There is also an idea to promote one of its Kerala leaders as a minister of state in the central government which may help common population connect to the center with this representation. The BJP is also planning to accommodate or woo the intelligentsia circles to connect with the masses which was also a tactic used by the Left before.
Most importantly, BJP has been served with an issue on the platter with the killing of a calf to oppose beef ban by the Congress. In a state where RSS- Communist skirmishes have killed a lot of RSS and BJP workers, the issue may help in polarizing the cadre and in turn may help in consolidating the Hindu votebank. However, the state traditionally dosent really fashion itself to the polarizing Hindutva agenda. Hence, the BJP must play it smartly by intermittently garnishing its campaign with development and evoking the Gujarat model of governance. Muslim votes if divides between the UDF and LDF, may also help the BJP gain rich dividends. Its tirade on triple Talaq may add votes to its own kitty too.
As Amit Shah is touring the state, Kerala CM P.Vijayan has mocked BJP ’s ambitions.
Although, the state may not be witnessing an Odisha like thunderous revival here, but subtly behind the scenes, the possibility of BJP emerging as an alternative here in Kerala is certainly looking promising. Time right now has given a better opportunity to the BJP and hopefully its spectacular show elsewhere has a chance of replicating it here in near future.