As the BJP analyses the results of the recent Assembly elections, party chief Amit Shah has asked state leaders to woo Christians, a community that the party sees as a prospective support base in southern and northeastern states.
Shah, who is scheduled to visit Kerala soon to find out how the BJP lost core votes in the polls, reportedly told an NDA delegation from Kerala led by Kummanam Rajasekharan, which met him earlier this week, that the state unit has to work on getting the community on board. Sources said state BJP leaders have been asked to reach out to the community to create a “level of trust and reduce trust deficiency”.
In an effort to increase the NDA’s base, the BJP is also expected to resume its attempts to bring in Kerala Congress-Mani, a key constituent of the Congress-led UDF. The BJP had had a series of backchannel talks with the party before the elections. Party leaders believe now that the UDF is out of power, talks for a possible alliance may be more fruitful.
The BJP leadership assesses that the Christian community, which forms 18.38 per cent of the state population, is per se not adversarial to the party. “The poll results showed the BJP could increase vote-share in central Kerala, which has a significant and influential Christian population,” a BJP leader said. “Besides, leaders of almost all denominations of the Church in Kerala have expressed keenness to maintain a good rapport with the BJP leadership.”
The NDA increased its vote share from 6 per cent in the 2011 Assembly election to 15 per cent. While the state unit claims that rise, along with the victory in Nemam constituency, is an achievement, the party’s central leaders say that BJP candidates finished second in eight seats, with less than 10,000 votes separating them from the winners. “Had we managed to keep the Christians and Nairs — two communities considered to be (BJP’s) natural allies in the state, the party would have got 8-10 seats,” one central leader said. “The state leadership’s failure in keeping these two communities has been one reason for the low tally.”
BJP leaders also admitted that its alliance with the BDJS, mentored by Ezhava leader Vellappally Nadesan of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, helped BJP get the community’s votes in Allappuzha and Kollam districts, but not as expected in other parts of the state. “This shows we need to get more parties to strengthen our base votes,” one of the leaders said.
According to a BJP leader who has been involved with organisation works in the state, the Kerala unit had ignored P C Thomas, the leader of Kerala Congress who was part of NDA-1. Some say Thomas could be a “bridge” for the BJP to strengthen ties with Christians now. He was invited for the swearing-in ceremony of Sarbananda Sonowal in Assam.
Thomas, who recently met Shah, has suggested that some representatives from the community be considered for posts in organisations, such as Rubber Board and Spices Board, that come under the Central government.