BY: Liz Mathew
The Kerala BJP is all geared up for its 152d birth anniversary celebrations of Dalit icon and social reformer Ayyankali, to be held in New Delhi on September 8 and attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The function comes in the wake of the party’s sustained campaign to woo Kerala’s Scheduled Castes, who constitute 10 per cent of its population and have been politically close to the CPM. When Modi visited Kerala in February during his election campaign, he had taken part in a convention to commemorate the centenary of a historic meeting held by the backyard Pulyar community.
The Kerala unit of the BJP is also backing an agitation in which backward families in the forests of Arippa in Kollam district are demanding land for building houses and farming.
“The Dalits in Kerala have started leaning towards the BJP as they feel sidelined by the CPM. We are not merely looking at them as a votebank, but as a marginalised society,” said state BJP chief V Muraleedharan. “This is the first time a PM is attending a function held to pay tribute to Ayyankali.”
BJP chief Amit Shah has set his sights on winning power in Kerala. During his visit to the state last week, he addressed around 4,500 BJP workers and discussed the strategy to expand the party’s support base. The party has 4.8 lakh registered members in the state and it is launching a “massive membership campaign” lasting five months in November.
The first goal before the state unit is the local body elections in 2015, followed by the Assembly polls next year.
In the state, the BJP’s vote share rose to 10.8 per cent in the 2014 polls, from 6.4 per cent five years ago.