BJP president Amit Shah on Friday arrived in Kochi for his three-day Kerala visit, amid a row in the state over the Centre’s notification which banned sale of cattle in animal markets for slaughter. Shah arrived at the Nedumbassery International Airport Friday morning and was welcomed with a rousing reception by BJP workers. He proceeded to a government guest house in Kochi accompanied by a bike rally organised by party workers.
The visit just a few days comes after the alleged public slaughter of a calf by Youth Congress workers. A BJP leader, however, said Shah’s visit was scheduled much ahead of these developments.
On Friday, the BJP chief will meet bishops in Kochi, in a bid to “build bridges” with the Christian community which accounts for 18 to 20 per cent of the votes in Kerala. Hindu far-right and Christians in Kerala have been in dispute over alleged incidents of religious conversion.
H Raja, BJP’s party’s in-charge in Kerala, said that during the three-day visit, Amit Shah will look into the organisational work in the state. Raja added that the meeting with the bishops is aimed at “understanding each other”. He also said that ‘a few popular people’ who had so far not been in
politics are set to join BJP during Shah’s three-day visit. BJP has also warmed up to Kerala Congress (M), a former ally of the Congress, which has considerable support among Christians.
BJP leaders believe it is an ‘imperative’ for the party to win over the minority votes if it had to emerge as a “potent force” in Kerala, where Hindu votes constitute about 55 per cent of the electorate while Muslims about 26-27 per cent of the electorate.
Besides interacting with party leaders over organisational work and future plans for BJP in the state, Shah is expected to hold meetings with BJP allies, leaders of various communities and influential people.
Keeping the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in mind, Kerala is believed to be an important part of BJP’s strategy. BJP expects to draw in a larger chunk of the 21 assembly seats in Kerala after it saw a 16 per cent increase in vote share in the 2016 assembly polls, even though it won only one seat. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP could not win a single seat. As of now, BJP has set up an alliance with smaller parties representing different communities. Amit Shah is scheduled to attend various party programmes over the next two days in Thiruvananthapuram.