“My family supports the BJP strongly. We want the BJP to win but the candidate selection could have been wiser.” The disappointment of Sumesh, 27, a carpenter in Palakkad, found an echo in Perumbavur in Ernakulam. Deepak Nair, 21, said: “So many youths want to vote for the BJP and bring in change. But we have not seen the BJP candidate yet.”
BJP insiders at the national level conceded their seat distribution has been flawed. And in Palakkad, a local leader questioned the choice of Sobha Surendran, an Ezhava. In a constituency where the Nair community wields clout, the leader said, a better choice would have been C Krishna Kumar, vice chairman in the Palakkad municipal council. Kumar was fielded instead in Malampuzha — against former CPM chief minister V S Achuthanandan.
“Most BJP workers have gone to Malampuzha to work for Kumar,” said Radhakrishnan, who calls himself a BJP supporter. “When the BJP emerged the single largest party in this municipality, Kumar’s shift to Malampuzha where the party won only 2,000 votes was surprising.” He wondered if a section of the BJP cadre is behind UDF candidate Shafi Parambil.
BJP insiders said questions have been raised also about “weak” candidates in Kasargode against former Congress MP K Sudhakaran, and in Thiruvananthapuram Central where cricketer S Sreesanth challenges minister V S Sivakumar. “Sreesanth could have won more votes in his home, Thripoonithara, the seat he had asked for,” said one insider.
There have been allegations that local BJP leaders wanted the Congress’s help in certain constituencies, such as Nemam, and they in turn had agreed to field “weak” candidates in some other seats. The CPM-led LDF has alleged it was a part of a “deal between the UDF and the BJP”. BJP insiders attribute it to “local pressures”. State BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan denied it, saying, “We give equal importance to all 140 constituencies and fight with all our ability to defeat both the UDF and the LDF,” he said.
Among seats where the BJP is alleged to have forged an understanding with the UDF is Thanur in Malappuram district. “To help the UDF candidate in Thanur, the BJP has fielded a weak candidate. And to defeat LDF candidate K T Jaleel in Thavanur, the BJP has shifted a strong candidate here, although he has more support in Thanur,” alleged Brijish, a CPM worker in Thanur. Anwar Sadat, another party worker, said the Co-Le-B axis (Congress-League-BJP) — a long-term allegation of the CPM — is still in place.
Speaking on condition of anonymity in Thiruvananthapuram, a senior BJP leader admitted his party’s “primary rival” is the CPM. Another leader admitted the “soft approach” towards the Congress in certain seats has adversely affected the BJP’s strategy of “consolidating” the Hindu vote. “In fact a consolidation of Hindu votes has so far happened only in the northern districts – Kasargode, Kannur, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Palakkad. It has not happened in the southern districts.”
R Balashankar, a BJP leader and the former editor of Organiser, admitted the BJP’s “ideological war” is with the CPM. “But this is a communist propaganda to consolidate the Muslim vote and to cover up its alliance with the Congress in Bengal. The BJP is on a rescue mission for Kerala,” Balashankar said.
The CPM has been frequently quoting former BJP veterans K G Marar and K Raman Pillai who wrote about the Co-Le-B axis to defeat the “Communist evil” in 1982 and in 1987. In Vadagara and Bepur in 1991, the Congress and the BJP had common candidates against the Left. The Congress, in turn, has alleged that the CPM had tied up with the then Jana Sangh in 1977, and that the support of the Left along with the BJP to the V P Singh government at the Centre had only been to keep the Congress away.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy denied the BJP’s emergence in the state could help the UDF. “The Congress fights elections on its own strengths, never relies on the follies of others… The BJP will just be able to consolidate its traditional vote, nothing more,” Chandy said.