BJP chief Amit Shah begins 3-day Kerala visit amid beef controversy
Amit Shah’s Kerala visit is aimed at expanding the party base in the southern state ahead of the 2019 general election.india Updated: Jun 10, 2017 16:29 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) president Amit Shah began a three-day visit to Kerala, where the controversy over the Centre’s new curbs on the sale and purchase of cattle has triggered a political storm, on Friday that is aimed at expanding the party base in the southern state ahead of the 2019 general election.
Since the Left-ruled Kerala is leading the agitation on the central notification, the party chief will have to do a lot of talking to clear the air and allay fears of the minority community members for whom the red meat is almost a staple diet.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said the timing of the notification makes it more intriguing, as the Muslim holy month of Ramzan is on. In Kerala, around 60% of the total meat consumed is beef. Not just Muslims and Christians, many Hindus are also fond of dishes made of the red meat.
In a letter to his counterparts in various state, he has them to raise their voice against the restrictions on cattle trade, saying the Centre’s “anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move” is an attempt to usurp power from the state governments. He said the ban would affect the livelihood of millions of people, especially those in the farming sector.
Vijayan added he didn’t need a “lesson in food habits from New Delhi or Nagpur”, referring to the RSS headquarters in Maharashtra.
Moreover, the CPI(M) will organise “evening dharnas” in 2000 places across in Kerala on Friday coinciding with Shah’s three-day tour to the southern state.
However, the party’s state president Kummanam Rajasekharan said beef was not an issue at all in the state. “The CPI(M) is talking in the air. Beef is not banned here. It is whipping up an unnecessary controversy to put the BJP in a bad light and it won’t succeed,” he said.
The party chief is expected to chart out a plan for the state unit to build up its base in the state and iron out differences between the allies of the National Democratic Front. Some of the constituents threatened to walk out of the alliance, saying they were not given their due promised during the last assembly elections.
The BJP opened its account in the state assembly securing a single seat from Thiruvananthapuram. But its poll percentage has almost doubled from 7% to 14% in the assembly election.
Party secretary H Raja set the ball rolling by claiming that some influential people may join the saffron party during Shah’s visit. Many names, including those of disgruntled Congress leaders, have been doing rounds for some time.
Shah, who arrived in Kochi, will be meet community leaders, including Cardinal Mar George Alancherry, later in the evening. The party has been wooing the church for some time. After various party functions and deliberations in Kochi, he will leave for the state capital on Saturday.