BJP may gain Dalit votes, but winning minorities will be hard
The Modi factor — Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — has positive and negative repercussions for the party’s election campaign in Kerala.
Mr. Modi had actually begun his campaign in the State by attending the 60th birthday celebrations of Mata Amritanandamayi and the 51st Dharma Meemamsa Parishad of the Ezhava community at the Varkala Sivagiri Madhom last year. This year, he inaugurated the convention of a faction of the Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha, the socio-cultural organisation of one of the leading Scheduled Caste communities in the State, in Kochi.
The strategy is clear. Being himself a member of a backward community in Gujarat, Mr. Modi knows that he could appeal to the Backward Classes in Kerala. However, in the highly polarised polity of Kerala, it is not easy to make inroads. The Scheduled Castes and the Backward Classes of the State are politically conscious, with many having Leftist leanings. However, the weakening of the Communist Party of India(Marxist), ideologically and politically, gives an opening to Mr. Modi in the State.
It is notable that Vellappally Natesan, Ezhava leader and general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, attended Mr. Modi’s function in Kochi, and explained himself later, saying that the BJP had largely shed its hardcore saffron agenda. A sizeable section of the Dheevara community of Mata Amritanandamayi was mobilised on Friday, under the aegis of the Sabha with support of the BJP, in protest against a book by a former resident of the Amritanandamayi Ashram that allegedly maligned the Ashram.
The Modi factor is indeed helping the BJP to some extent in lining up members of Dalits and Backward Classes behind it, whereas its previous attempts had failed in the electoral arena.
The developmental agenda of Mr. Modi may appeal to the youth and the business class in the State. However, there is no large business community or IT crowd that Mr. Modi can influence in Kerala.The projection of Mr. Modi as coming to power at the Centre brings its share of woes for the State unit of the BJP.