The BJP put up a massive show of strength in Kerala’s financial capital on Wednesday as thousands of workers with saffron flags walked through the city’s arterial roads as part of the party’s ‘jana raksha’ march against alleged CPM violence in the state. Led by state president Kummanam Rajasekharan and joined by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi and MoS Giriraj Singh, party workers braved heat and exhaustion to walk almost nine kilometres shouting slogans against the ‘murderous’ tendency of the ruling CPM against its workers especially in Kannur district. The protest march was inaugurated in Kannur’s Payyanur by BJP president Amit Shah on October 3 and will conclude in state capital Thiruvananthapuram this week.
“Thousands of people are greeting us every day. It shows how much the people are attracted to us. With this march, the Marxist party stands isolated. With its involvement in the solar scam exposed, the Congress is also isolated among the people. The public are now reposing their trust and faith in the BJP. This march proves that,” Rajasekharan told IndianExpress.com as he marched forward in the hot afternoon sun.
On whether Shah’s leaving the Jan Raksha march in Kannur has affected party morale, Rajasekharan promised that the party president will return on October 15 when the protest concludes in Thiruvananthapuram.
Lekhi, one of the principal spokespersons of the party, told IndianExpress.com that the protest march is not just for the party’s growth in Kerala.
“The fact is that our people have sacrificed their lives to support democracy and their point of view. The Leftist ideology is to denigrate anything that opposes them ideologically,” she said. “They (CPM) say something but they practice exactly the opposite. The jan raksha yatra is to expose such politics and stand by the people who have suffered at the hands of jihadis and the leftists.”
‘Amit Shah is Chanakya and Rajasekharan is Bheeshmacharya’
A leader, standing on top of a jeep and announcing the motive of the yatra to bystanders and pedestrians, described Amit Shah as the ‘Chanakya’ of national politics and the state president Rajasekharan as ‘Bheeshmacharya’ of state politics.
People trooped out of shops and restaurants as thousands of party workers carried giant photos of slain RSS/BJP workers.
Slogans calling Marxists ‘murderers’ and ‘terrorists’ rang out as part of the protest march. “Do not try to frighten us. We are not scared. This is the BJP, not the Congress,” a party worker shouted in Malayalam as others sang in chorus.
At select intersections, there were billboards of RSS/BJP victims with the tagline that they will not be forgotten by the party.
Traffic comes to a standstill
Scores of cars, buses and motorcycles had to halt for hours as the BJP’s yatra began from the busy Edapally intersection on the national highway 544. Policemen had a harrowing time handling pedestrians and those on vehicles, at the same time ensuring security to state and national leaders of the BJP.
Many locals complained that the party’s roadshow especially during the busy evening hours when office-goers travel home is not a wise idea. At the busy Kaloor bus stand, from where long-distances buses to Piravam and Kottayam depart, the long line of BJP followers made it hard for buses to begin their trips on time.
Many not bothered but some say party will grow
While some people who stood and watched the party demonstrate its strength in Kochi had nothing to say about its prospects, there were others who think it’s a sign of the party’s growth.
“I am not a BJP sympathiser but when you see this, you know the party is growing. Growth takes time. It may take years and years,” said a man who did not wish to be named.
“I am from a Marxist family. My father was a hardcore communist. But this government (CPM) is not doing much. There is a lot of corruption,” he said. “Can they make education affordable? Can a common person dream of getting an MBBS degree without paying a lot of money?”
On violence between workers of the two parties, he said, “The CPM is the ruling party. Let them take the initiative and bring the violence to a stop.”
Manoharan, who works in the city corporation and lives in faraway Varapuzha, stood for almost 20 minutes to see the rally.
“I thought it was going to be a small roadshow. But this is big. When you see so many people, it indicates the party is strong,” he said.
He said the RSS traditionally has a lot of ‘vashi’ (stiff resentment) with the CPM going back decades ago which is responsible for the violence.
Vaishakh MR, BJP secretary in Aluva and a member of the Yuva Morcha, was confident about the party’s prospects.
“As a political party, we were nothing in Kerala. But with this yatra, we can see the support of the people. We can see a ‘jana sagaram’ (sea of people) which means we are getting a lot of support. You can sense that the people are fighting back against the CPM,” he said.
He blamed CPM leaders for promoting the party through cinema.
“These (CPM) leaders are spreading their agenda through cinema. People of the younger generation are joining SFI and DYFI after watching films of Nivin Pauly and Dulquer Salmaan. If you ask them, they won’t even know the names of their own party leaders,” said Vaishakh.
However, ironically in an indicator of why the party is still struggling in the state, the roadshow had long-time workers like Venu who simply did not know why they were marching.
“I don’t know exactly what the aim of the protest is. But BJP is a good party. I believe in it,” he said sheepishly.