Enthused after its win in Nemom, the first ever seat for the BJP in the Assembly, and having managed a vote share of 15 per cent, the party has said Kerala will be the “next Assam”.
“This victory in Nemom is the beginning of our victory march in the state. By next election, we will be a force to reckon with,” said O Rajagopal, who won from Nemom. “BJP has not just won one seat, it is second in seven and has polled more than 40,000 votes in at least 30 constituencies,” he told The Indian Express.
Immediately after the BJP’s win in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Kerala was one of the seven states identified as “targets” by party chief Amit Shah. In the blueprint Shah had prepared for the recalcitrant state — where RSS has a strong ground network — he sought the stitching together of a rainbow coalition of small community groups. The BJP did that by tying up with the Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sangh (BDJS) ahead of the 2016 polls. The second step would be to rope in more parties. The BJP believes a broader coalition of parties would help it overcome some of the hurdles it faces in Kerala, given its unique demography — minorities, Christians and Muslims put together, constitute almost 45 per cent of the state’s population.
Party sources said UDF’s defeat would make it easier for the BJP to resume talks with parties such as Kerala Congress-Mani. “In the coming years, Hindu consolidation will be easier. Besides Nairs and Ezhavas, Christians are also our prospective voters,” the leader said, pointing out that BJP candidate P S Sreedharan Pillai scored 42,682 votes in Chengannur, a constituency dominated by Christians.
“With the Congress in terminal decline, we will soon be kingmakers in the state and then the party will form the government there. A decade ago, everyone dismissed the idea of BJP forming a government in Assam. They thought it was impossible, but we are there today. The same will happen in Kerala,” R Balashankar, national convenor of BJP’s intellectual cell said.
However, the BJP’s ally, BDJS, a coalition formed by the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, which claims to represent Kerala’s largest Hindu community of the Ezhavas, could not match the BJP’s performance in the constituencies it contested.
Party insiders admit that some of NDA’s strategies didn’t work. “As a result, the NDA was not able to get the Nair, Ezhava and Christian votes it hoped for,” said a party leader.
Rajagopal gets tenth time lucky
Will BJP open an account? Election after election, as poll watchers posed this question, they turned to Olanchery Rajagopal, the party’s face in Kerala. At 86, in his tenth attempt, he has finally opened that “account”, winning from Nemom by a margin of 8,617 votes. After his win, he said, “BJP’s success is an answer to Antony’s jibe that BJP leaders can enter the Assembly only after obtaining visitors’ passes.’’
Several times in the past, Rajagopal has come close to winning, only to end up disappointed. He was runner-up in the 2011 Assembly election and the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.