The BJP’s ‘Jan Raksha Yatra’ in Kerala is unique on many counts. Rarely does a party ruling the center focus their entire resources to a state. The party president is joined by Union ministers and party chief ministers in a march through the state considered to be one of the last remaining posts to resist the BJP’s onslaught.
This is a rare event in the history of independent India. Even in 1959, when the Union government dismissed the communist government in Kerala led by E.M.S. Namboodiripad, neither the Congress leadership nor the Union government dared to lead a protest against the state government. The BJP game plan is unprecedented.
The march has roiled the political climate of Kerala, which would have gone through the latter part of 2017 without events, except the rather predictable assembly by election in the Muslim League bastion of Vengara.
The BJP march was not the only roadshow planned in Kerala. CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran were also supposed to take out their own rallies but they have been postponed in view of the assembly by-election. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala is also set to galvanize the Congress cadre ahead of the Lok Sabha election two years away.
Road show as cover-up
The BJP leadership planned the march as a face saver in Kerala, where a series of scandals had tarnished the party’s image. The Left Democratic Front thought up its own rallies to counter any campaign the BJP is expected to raise against the front ruling the state. The Congress has to keep its prospects alive between the aggressive rivals. The Congress-led United Democratic Front has even called for a hartal on October 16 to steal the show.
BJP president Amit Shah and team wanted to send out a strong signal to the CPM by taking out a rally through the red fort of Pinarayi, the hometown of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The RSS has taken the reins of the BJP in this aggressive posture. The BJP-RSS combine is trying hard to dent the chief minister’s image by projecting him as an instigator of political violence. They even brought national media representatives to Kannur and flaunted placards in English for their benefit.
The target is evidently the CPM, judging by the BJP’s simultaneous march to the CPM headquarters in New Delhi. CPM general secretary has been a proponent of a broad-based front including the Congress to resist the BJP. The BJP’s rage is natural. The CPM is the only political force that can give the BJP a fight in the pockets where it is a force to reckon with.
Communal card a dead cow
The BJP has almost realized that a communal polarization is not the right strategy to make inroads into Kerala. The change of mind is reflected in the near-abandoning of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena. The party wants to roil political issue and ride a wave to the top.
The CPM is well aware of the BJP plan but the party does not want to give its rival more attention than it deserves. The CPM state secretary has lampooned the BJP president as the party cadre enjoyed the mockery.
The CPM is treading with caution. The party cadre has been instructed to rein in emotions as any provocation would give the Union government an excuse to act against the state. Emotions are running high in the RSS as well.
The UDF wants to stay relevant by projecting the CPM and the BJP as harmful for the state. The opposition alliance is already working on the photos, videos and folk art forms to drive home the message. The UDF has to get back the minority votes from the CPM and the majority votes from the BJP.
As the three formations step up their strategies, the Kerala politics is fast hotting up.