As Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday took the stage to commemorate the 152nd birth anniversary Mahatma Ayyankali, the Dalit icon and social reformist of Kerala, the BJP found a Dalit route to break into the Left’s bastion in the strong southern state.
The event, organized by the largest umbrella organization of scheduled castes the Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha (KPMS), Modi made it clear: “without the KPMS, neither social policy nor politics is possible in Kerala.”
Minutes before Modi’s statement, the KPMS president NK Neelakandan flatly said in his speech, “We will only help those who will take care of us.”
The KPMS represents 103 scheduled castes and has an influence over 35 lakh voters—roughly 10% of the total voter-strength of the state. Talking to HT before the event, Neelakadan said, “Earlier, most of us supported the communists. But in the next assembly election, we may back BJP candidates.”
The KPMS claimed that it can sway 16 assembly seats and enjoys influence over another 24 seats. The Kerala elections are due in April 2016.
In his speech, Modi effusively praised Ayyankali, even compared his first Dalit meeting in 1913 (held on fishing boats as officials denied permission to use any land) with Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March and spelled out his larger message: “Equality among Dalits and forward classes are not enough. There has to be a sense of compassion and brotherhood as well.”
The event at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan was also timed perfectly—just seven days after BJP chief Amit Shah went to Kerala to find foothold for the BJP. Modi too, complimented the efforts: “I am possibly the first one from our school of thought to come close to you,” he told the audience packed with Malayali Dalits.
The craft politician also hit out at Congress and Left rulers to maximize from this ocassion, “No one thought that such a commemoration can take place at this important venue.”