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Lotus not blooming in Kerala

The Kerala Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will spring a few surprises in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, crowed state party chief V Muralidharan a few days back. But the straws in the wind signify that the badly divided party itself is in for a few unpleasant surprises.
Ironically, it is not the parties ranged against the BJP which are going to do that. It is the groupism-plagued state BJP itself, which will accomplish the task. Indications of the shape of things to come were available at the first state committee meeting of Kerala BJP, held after a long time. In protest against the ‘dictatorial functioning of the  leadership, party vice-president A T Ramesh, general secretary A N Radhakrishnan, state committee members, Damodaran and  M K Sashindran and senior BJP leader and former state party chief P S Sreedharan Pillai boycotted the meeting. Their key allegation is that state committee office-bearers and members were elected unilaterally. What seems to have deepened the division is the refusal to make M S Kumar vice-president of BJP’s state unit.

Though state BJP chief V Muralidharan has denied it, a number of leaders belonging to the anti-Muralidharan group met national vice-president Bangaru Dattatreya, who was in Palakkad to attend the state committee meeting, to complain about the rampant groupism bedeviling  the state unit, it is learnt.

Significantly, a few senior leaders also stayed away from the workshop, held in connection with the Lok Sabha elections. Their absence from the workshop was unprecedented and draws everyone’s attention. The state leadership will be hard put to explain the situation.
Party’s all-India secretary P K Krishnan Das also attracted attention by leaving half way through the proceedings. It is a fact that Krishna Das, a former state BJP president, is also unhappy about the style of functioning of the official leadership of the state party.

Needless to say, the bickering among senior leaders cannot but have an adverse impact on the party’s preparations and performance in the Lok Sabha elections. The party’s strategy seems to be to concentrate on its ‘stronghold constituencies’ instead of wasting time, energy and resources on all seats. These seats are Kasargode bordering Karnataka, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad. BJP’s election campaign committee chief Narendra Modi is expected to be the star campaigner for the party. Although Modi’s tour programme has not been finalised, he is likely to visit a few of the party’s stronghold seats. Modi may also attend the 60th birthday day celebrations of Matha Amrithanandhamayi in Kollam next month.

BJP sources say the party has a reasonably good chance of creating history by making its parliamentary debut from Kerala in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The seats on which the party has pinned its hopes the most are Kasargode, Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad. Party sources say there are a host of factors which will stand the party in good stead in the general elections. For instance, they claim, the Oommen Chandy Government’s blatant and unbridled ‘minority appeasement policy’ has caused great resentment among the Hindu voters, causing a sharp polarization of voters on the basis of religion and castes.

Spearheading this Hindu polarization campaign are the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam. Both the organizations have made it clear that they will vote against the Congress-led UDF Government in the state. BJP sources claim that, more than the LDF, it is their party which will benefit from a Hindu vote consolidation.
In support of their argument, they point out the Neyyattinkara by-election result. In the
by-election, BJP candidate O Rajagopal had polled more than 30,000 votes, registering a six-fold rise in the BJP’s vote. If the Neyyattinkara pattern repeats in the LS polls – and they are sure it will – then that will be bad news not only for the UDF but also for the LDF.

These sources have been playing down the group war within the state unit. Similarly, the Advani-Modi tussle will also have no impact on the election outcome as the ‘wrinkles have been ironed out’, according to them. Advani is held in high esteem by the state BJP activists, but they do not think the BJP stalwart will do anything to harm the party’s prospects in the parliamentary elections.
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