POLITICS

Why BJP's Polarisation Ploy Will Not Work In Kerala

By harping on non-existent issues, the BJP will gain nothing. 

05/10/2017 2:57 PM IST | Updated 05/10/2017 3:14 PM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images

For years, the BJP has been desperate to make electoral inroads to Kerala, but has been unable to find a breakthrough because politically the party has nothing new to offer, except a continuum of bogus issues that the people in the state hardly care for.

On Tuesday, its national president Amit Shah flagged off a "yatra" - a significant, inherited tool in BJP's polarisation strategy elsewhere in India -- in Kannur in north Kerala where the ruling CPM and the RSS/BJP are locked on in a rancorous duel. The stated purpose of this "Jan Raksha Yatra" is to fight "jihadi-red terror" -- "red" signifying the ruling CPM, the backbone of Kerala's left politics and the strongest political party in the state, and "jihadi" denoting Muslims that account for about 28% of the state's population.

Unfortunately, it's an empty slogan against non-existing issues: Kerala may have some localised violence in Kannur and the (reported) presence of some Islamist elements, but nothing that could be classified as "terror" that threatens the safety of its people. In fact, the unnatural combo of Marxists and the Islamists that the BJP has invented is contrary to truth, and betrays its political ignorance as well as desperation.

Fatal attacks against each other in Kannur by the CPM and the BJP don't make "red" terror or affect the general lives of the people. If the CPM is responsible for the violence, the BJP is equally responsible too. The number of casualties demonstrates nothing else. As this Indian Express feature clearly established, the alleged red-terror is saffron-terror too. By spinning the violent clashes -- between the workers of his party and the CPM -- as "terror" by the CPM, and even holding the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan responsible, Shah was faking a bogus case.

This is BJP's fundamental problem -- it neither has a political idea or nor a development agenda that will find resonance with the people of the state, thanks to the unique socio-political legacy of the state for more than a century.

What was worse still, was the statement by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath that Kerala should learn from UP on how to run hospitals. He was flown down to Kerala to participate in the Yatra on Wednesday amid a slew of others who are waiting to join in the coming days. The chief minister of one of India's worst performing states in human development preaching to the highest performer was ludicrous, particularly in the wake of the Gorakhpur tragedy.

Probably, Adityanath's ill-informed advisers or wicked spin-masters thought that they could convert the recent spurt of dengue cases in Kerala into a pitch to malign the state, but comparing it with UP was a bit of a stretch. A few seasonal dengue cases don't make Kerala look worse than UP, or even comparable, just as the child mortality statistics in a tribal enclave, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had used in May last, didn't make the state look like Somalia.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

This is BJP's fundamental problem -- it neither has a political idea or nor a development agenda that will find resonance with the people of the state, thanks to the unique socio-political legacy of the state for more than a century. Unless it comes up with a welfare-state politics that's better than what Kerala has long since achieved, BJP's development rhetoric will continue to evoke nothing but derision; and unless it comes up with a political thought that's markedly superior to that of the CPM-led left-front or the Congress-led democratic-front, it will continue to draw a blank. Unfortunately, jihad and terror are uncool, or rather foolish ideas because both are just bad imaginations.

This is precisely why the party crash lands as soon as it takes off. There's no momentum except the push from Delhi to carry it forward. Bereft of a progressive ideology, the party is a misfit in Kerala's politics. It may have reached a 10% vote-share that's tantalising Shah and others; but that's it. Moving head is almost impossible unless it gets Christians, who account for about 18% of the population, also on its side. It's really a long shot and still, won't be enough.

Polarisation of Hindus alone will not work because of the state's unique demography (roughly, only half the population is Hindu).

The unnatural clubbing of the alleged violence by the CPM and "jihad" into a single slogan of "jihadi-red terror" is a sinister ploy to break through its present stagnation. By targeting the CPM, the BJP is trying poach the anti-CPM votes and by maligning the Muslims using the "jihadi" word, it's trying to woo more Hindus and Christians because the general belief is that there is no love lost between the latter and the Muslims when it comes to minority interests. Polarisation of Hindus alone will not work because of the state's unique demography (roughly, only half the population is Hindu). There's no other way than targeting the other non-Hindus, namely the Christians. Shah meeting leaders of various Christian denominations when he visited the state last and making a Syrian Catholic - KJ Alphons - the only cabinet minster from the state are part of its strategy. But this strategy has been on the works for long and hasn't paid off.

Just as clashes between the workers of the BJP and the CPM don't make "red terror", a handful of misguided Muslim youth travelling to ISIS-held areas or a few girls converting to Islam or marrying Muslim men doesn't make "jihadi terror". By harping on non-existent issues, BJP will gain nothing.

The party is cornered in Kerala because its development pitch is irrelevant to the state, and its anti-left and communal ideas are inconsistent with the the socio-political and cultural ethos of Keralites.

In other words, there's hardly any space for the BJP, except in troller-shops.

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