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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014

‘Soft Hindutva’ plank for 2016 polls in Kerala

Ramesh Babu and Kumar Uttam , Hindustan Times  Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi, August 22, 2014
First Published: 23:47 IST(22/8/2014) | Last Updated: 09:41 IST(23/8/2014)

The sizeable vote-share gains in the parliamentary polls have infused the BJP with optimism about its political fortunes in Kerala, a state where it is yet to open its account — both in the 140-member assembly and the 20 Lok Sabha seats.

With the 2016 assembly election as its next key target, the party has set its sights on the backwards classes and scheduled castes, which it plans to lure with “soft Hindutva”.

This is in sync with the efforts of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that has considerable presence in the southern state but has failed to convert this into votes for the BJP.

As the Congress-led United Democratic Front and CPM-driven Left Democratic Front compete for minority votes, the BJP plans to draw the Hindu voters, a large section of whom has been a loyal supporter of the Left.

With this in mind, seemingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of social reformer and renowned Dalit leader from Kerala Ayyankali on September 8 in New Delhi.

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In April, Modi addressed the annual spiritual discourse of Sivagiri Mutt, founded by Narayana Guru who was born in the backward Ezhava community of God’s Own Country. Two months earlier, he had also spoken at a meeting by Kerala Pulayar Mahasabha, a group of scheduled caste citizens.  

BJP chief Amit Shah will attend a meeting of the state executive on September 1 in Thiruvananthapuram, where he will also have a closed-door meeting with the heads and general secretaries of the party at the panchayat-level.

“The Muslims League’s dominance in the state’s politics has antagonised several people. Hindus in Kerala have started realising that they need an alternative to LDF,” BJP’s Kerala chief V Muraleedharan told HT.

Muslims constitute about 26% of Kerala’s population. Christians are nearly 18%, while Hindus comprise 55% — about 30% OBCs, and SCs at almost 10%.

BJP leaders in Delhi say even Christians, who they maintain are also getting uncomfortable with the Muslim League’s ascendancy, have changed their outlook towards the party.

An outsider in the state’s stagnant bipolar politics so far, BJP’s vote share rose to 10.3% in the Lok Sabha election from 6.4% in the previous edition.

But there are enough signs of encouragement. While BJP’s O Rajagopal lost to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram by over 15,000 votes, he managed a lead in four of the seven assembly constituencies.

Determined to take the next leap forward, the BJP has called a state convention of alliance partners on August 24.

Muraleedharan says the party now aims to secure the Thiruvananthapuram municipal corporation, for which elections will be held in October 2015. Going by the Lok Sabha poll outcome, BJP has a lead in 63 of the 100 civic wards. 

The state’s unique population ratio and four-decade-old coalition politics always makes the BJP an also-ran. But, now the party is planning to occupy the space relinquished by left-wing outfits, readily admitting disgruntled communists and others into its fold.


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