BJP chief Amit Shah has told the Kerala unit leaders to project the party as the NDA, which comprises various sections of people, to expand its support base, sources said. He has also told them to tone down the party’s hardcore Hindutva image to improve its electoral prospects in a state where minority votes are crucial, they added.
During his three-day visit to the state, Shah repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction over the way the BJP functioned in the state and the approach of the leadership on issues, sources said.
Many BJP leaders pointed out during the meetings that the Centre’s notification on animal trade had affected the BJP’s prospects. Shah is believed to have told them that it was their duty to “explain” the Centre’s moves. On Sunday, the Centre announced that it is open to suggestions from various groups on the notification.
“The party president was convinced that the BJP cannot win or perform impressively in Kerala unless we change our strategies. The BJP’s hardcore Hindutva image may be a hurdle for us to penetrate the minority support base,” a party leader who was present at the meetings said. “When it is difficult as the BJP, we have to move as the NDA,” he added.
“The party will now move as the NDA, in which there are different groups comprising various sections such as Dalits and Christians. The BJP won 13 per cent votes in 2014 as the NDA,” another leader said. “The BJP has to expand its support base among Dalits and Christians.”
Sources said that Shah warned state leaders that he would visit Kerala every six months to oversee their performance. He is learnt to have told the leaders that he would be spending his birthday (October 22) in Kerala, and they should give him no reason to scold them that day.
Party sources said that Shah, who was particularly disapproving of state BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan’s style of functioning, could consider removing him from the post unless he makes drastic changes to improve the BJP’s prospects. Rajasekharan was unavailable for a comment.
It was learnt that Shah was irritated at the mention of the BJP’s image as anti-minority in the meetings. Sources said he asked the state leaders to work hard on promoting central government schemes, especially Mudra Bank and Ujjwala.
Shah is also learnt to have told them that party activities cannot be confined to speeches and activism in other areas. According to a leader who attended the meeting, Rajasekharan was asked to shed his image “as an environment activist and work politically”.
The party chief was also upset that state leaders had not finalised strategies for Lok Sabha polls. “He said part-time politics cannot work in the BJP. Data on increasing vote per cent will not do. Everyone has to work hard and reach out to all sections of society,” said a source.