BJP chief Amit Shah met party leaders from Kerala on Thursday and discussed “ways to strengthen the NDA” ahead of the 2019 elections, senior party leader and former state chief V Muraleedharan told The Indian Express. According to sources, the BJP leadership has assessed that fighting alone in Kerala may not yield the desired results and there is “an urgent need to strengthen the NDA as an entity” in the state.
At the recent BJP National Executive meet in Bhubaneswar, both Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi set coastal states — Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal apart from Odisha — as the party’s next targets. But unlike in other states, leaders believe that the BJP would need the overwhelming support of existing allies like the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) in Kerala. They also point to a need to expand the coalition. “That’s the reason smaller parties like Janadhipathiya Rashtriya Sabha, though it does not have any significant presence, were also invited at the Prime Minister’s NDA meeting,” said a party leader.
“The BJP has been organising various programmes in the state. But we have realised that the impact would be more powerful if we do that as an entity, especially when there are CPM-led LDF and the Congress-led UDF as established entities,” he added.
Although the BJP has managed to make some inroads, winning Hindu votes in certain areas, the community largely stands with the LDF, while the minorities form strong support base for the UDF.
With the BDJS, an outfit of Ezhava community, already being part of the NDA, the BJP leadership is keen to woo the Christians, another influential community in the state. “The BJP wants to win considerable Hindu votes from the LDF and Christians from the UDF,” said the state leader.
The party will exercise its “poaching” strategy also in the state, added sources. A section in the central leadership is of the view that party leaders should get prominent leaders from the other parties with high winnability to ensure seats in its kitty from the state. Sources said the central leadership has asked for a list of “probables” who could join the BJP.
For the BJP leadership, having a strong foothold in Kerala, where it has been fighting an ideological battle with the Communists, is significant. The leadership has asked the state unit to hold mass campaigns to penetrate Left-dominated areas.
Shah, who will be beginning his 95-day countrywide tour later this month, will be in Kerala for three days — July 25 to 27. The party will be launching an aggressive campaign before and after his visit, said state leaders.
Thursday’s meeting also assumes significance as it came in the wake of intensifying demands from the RSS in Kerala and the state party unit that the state should be represented in the Union government. Sources said the state leaders have taken up the issue of inducting one representative from Kerala in the next reshuffle, but there has been no assurance from the Centre.