O Rajagopal has finally made it. So has the BJP: the 87 year old veteran will go down in history as the first BJP MLA in Kerala’s 140-member assembly.
The BJP will thank Rajagopal for opening its account in the state assembly where bipolar politics have so far kept the party out of the reckoning. Apart from the BJP’s organisational strength what helped the party to create history is the image of Rajettan’ – as he popularly known. He is considered a noble and well meaning person and that propelled him to victory from Nemom, a constituency on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram.
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Thursday, will be a turning point in his political life that has seen him taste the bitterness of defeat six times, from Mancheri in 1989 to the Aruvikkara by-election last year.
Rajagopal had a healthy lead almost throughout counting day in the 2014 Lok Sabha election when a wave in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had buoyed him but in the end Shashi Tharoor (Congress) pipped him to the post in a photo finish.
He first contested a Lok Sabha seat in 1980 as a Janata Party candidate from Kasaragod. He had also lost the 2012 Neyyattinkara by-election, assembly election in 2011 from Nemom, 1989 Lok Sabha from Manjeri and 1991, 1999 and 2004 parliamentary polls in Thiruvananthapuram.
Despite these defeats, Rajagopal, the face of the BJP in Kerala for almost two decades, was credited with the BJP’s steady growth in the state – many saw this election as the last chance for the BJP to win an assembly seat in Kerala. Rajagopal has held union portfolios such Defence and Parliamentary Affairs, Urban Development, Law, Justice and Company Affairs, and Railways as a minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government at the Centre. He has also been a Rajya Sabha MP from 1992-2004.
A staunch RSS follower, Rajagopal has been close to Mata Amrithanandamayi, who had sent her people to Nemom to work for his victory. He began his political career with the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in the 1960s, and was its general secretary in Kerala and later its president in the 1970s. Known for his proximity to veteran BJP leader L K Advani, he was also jailed during Emergency.
Speaking to The Indian Express during his campaign, Rajagopal had said that this election would be an opportunity to remove the “old notions” about the BJP. The BJP in Kerala has a different face – it did not talk about a ban on cow slaughter or about slogans like Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. In fact, party workers were strictly asked not to raise any such controversial issues although Rajagopal did speak about `harassed’ Hindus.