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Cong hopes on BJP’s surge

Cong hopes on BJP’s surge
Highlights

Cong hopes on BJP’s surge. The Congress and the BJP are arch rivals in national polity. But, the Kerala state politics present an interesting picture with Congress-led UDF pinning its hopes entirely on the possible surge of BJP to retain power in the next Assembly elections.

The Congress and the BJP are arch rivals in national polity. But, the Kerala state politics present an interesting picture with Congress-led UDF pinning its hopes entirely on the possible surge of BJP to retain power in the next Assembly elections. The BJP, which failed to make an entry into Kerala electoral politics till now despite hectic bid, wants to make it happen this time by working out a consummate caste combination to its advantage.

Facing a serious anti-incumbency due to a series of scams, the Congress-led UDF hopes the surging BJP to cut into anti-incumbency vote thus thwarting the advance of the Left Democratic Front led by the CPI(M).

The Kerala polity is vertically polarized between the rightist combination in the form of the UDF-led by Congress and the Left combine led by CPI(M). The BJP failed to penetrate into the state due to this cut-throat polarization despite social composition conducive to its politico-religious mobilization.

The state has a remarkable history of power fortunes oscillating between the two rival fronts. Feared by this general trend, the Congress expects that it can retain power if BJP makes sizable gains. The hopes of Congress are not without any substance as the BJP’s vote share is increasing in the state. With the new caste allies coming into its fold, the BJP expects to do much better.

The elections to local bodies to be held in the first week of November would be a litmus test for the efficacy of this caste calculus and political arithmetic for the ensuing Assembly elections. According to the 2011 Census, Hindus constitute 54.7 per cent of the state's population, followed by Muslims with 24.6 per cent and Christians 18.4 per cent. The Muslim and Christian minorities are politically organised.

The Congress allied with respective political groupings like the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the factions of Kerala Congress thus garnering the majority of minority vote. The CPI(M)-led LDF has been getting the majority of Hindu vote. The BJP has been campaigning for a Hindu unity for long time. But, due to the presence of strong Left, its propaganda failed to cut ice with the people of Kerala.

But, now with the decline of the Left at the all India level and the emergence of BJP as a formidable force at the Centre and the Modi impact on aspirational middle class, the BJP hopes to achieve its goal of entering the Kerala polity in a decisive manner. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has a strong network in the state even when BJP has no political base. The RSS affiliates have now galvanized their cadres to ensure BJP’s political gains.

Besides, the BJP has put in place a clever caste calculus to advance its political project. It targeted numerically powerful Ezhava community which has been rallying behind the CPI(M) so far. This community alone accounts for 24 percent of Kerala population that is a lion’s share of Hindu vote. The BJP arrived at a strategic alliance with Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam the organisational arm of the powerful Ezhava community.

Its leader Vellappalli Natesan has met Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. He started talking about Hindu unity. Natesan has even supported Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Ghar Wapsi campaign last year aimed at converting non-Hindus to Hinduism. Sree Narayana Guru was a social reformer who campaigned for casteless society. But, says Prof. Ganesh, a historian , the BJP is now projecting him as a Hindu spiritual leader.

The SNDP that claims to inherit the legacy of this social reformer gave a call for unity of all Hindu castes, an idea BJP obviously favours. However, the Nair Service Society representing another powerful community rejected the call. The Congress is maintaining a strategic silence at the emerging BJP– SNDP combination. Any attempt of BJP– SNDP combine to unite Hindu vote would be a threat to the Left hopes of dislodging the UDF.

Prof. K Nageshwar in Thiruvananthapuram

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