The 14-day Janraksha Yatra flagged off by BJP president Amit Shah on Tuesday is the best planned strategic political move the party has made so far in Kerala where it is struggling to gain acceptance. The beginning of the march, scheduled to cover 11 districts of the southern state, in Payyannur town of the politically volatile Kannur district, saw a strong emotional pitch by Shah and all the speakers giving sketchy details of the killings that took place in the region. Family members of the slain RSS and BJP workers in Kannur were on parade. Photos of victims of these political killings with their severed heads and limbs were also exhibited.
In his inaugural speech, meant to inspire his party workers for a tough battle ahead, Shah did not mince words. In the region which has been at the centre of an intense campaign by the BJP and its ideological parent RSS, the saffron party has been facing a difficult political and ideological battle against the Communists.
The BJP’s latest attempts will definitely provide fresh momentum to the cadre. The young cadre in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad districts who descended in large numbers in Kannur have been enthusiastic. For them it has been an event and a show of strength they have been waiting for, for a long time. In a region dominated by the leftist politics of the CPI-M, the moderate politics of the IUML and the centrist Congress, right wing politics has been suppressed until recently. This is the region where the Communists gained popularity on the basis of their anti-imperialism struggles in the pre-independent era. The Left was seen as the champion of the peasant revolution, anti-imperialism and the working class struggle in Kerala.
The BJP’s attempt to breach the red fortress is not easy. Amit Shah seems to be aware of this. His extra effort to make an impact in the state that sends just 20 lawmakers to Parliament indicates his understanding of the ground reality. Unlike other states, the demographic and social profile of Kerala are not conducive to the BJP’s usual tactics. Although Hindus are in majority, Muslims and Christians form almost half of the population and have been influential communities in the north and the central districts, respectively. The Left, considered to be the most progressive movement in this southern state, claims a large chunk of Hindu votes. The BJP tried to cobble an alliance with small community groups, but it still has not been able to put up a strong and promising political combine.
The passionate slogans being on the BJP yatra – everyone has to live, the Left has joined hands with Jihaadis as its ideology has become obsolete, Left’s violent politics vs peaceful politics of BJP, etc – will be music to ears of the cadre. But how far it would attract voters is yet to be seen.