BJP’s Kerala hopes start in Kasaragod, centre of divide, Otherwise, it’s still largely bipolar

Unlike the other 13 districts of Kerala, the communal divide between Hindus and Muslims is very tangible in Kasaragod.

Kasaragod | Published: April 10, 2014 12:51:58 am

The northern Kerala constituency of Kasaragod may witness one of its most polarised elections with the BJP running an aggressive campaign for Narendra Modi. On Tuesday, Modi addressed a massive audience at the town’s municipal stadium, where he accused the CPM and the Congress of engaging in a “friendly match”.

Unlike the other 13 districts of Kerala, the communal divide between Hindus and Muslims is very tangible in Kasaragod. It is one of the two constituencies where the BJP has caught the CPM and the Congress in a triangular contest. BJP state general secretary K Surendran is the candidate in Kasaragod, and veteran O Rajagopal is on a desperate battle in Thiruvananthapuram.

According to Kerala Crime Records Bureau statistics, Kasaragod has seen a spike in communal cases in recent years — from 24 cases in 2006, to 153 in 2011, 93 in 2012, and 51 in 2013. The district has separate strongholds for Muslims, mostly moneyed Middle East returnees, and economically backward Hindus. In certain Hindu villages, Muslims are not allowed to buy property, and it is vice versa in Muslim villages. Even a road accident may take a communal angle if those involved belong to different communities.

It was against this backdrop that the BJP has been persistently working to increase its electoral presence. At Manjeshwar and Kasaragod assembly segments under Kasaragod Lok Sabha seat, the BJP had finished second in the last assembly elections.

BJP sources that while the Babri issue mobilised the Hindu vote bank in Kasaragod, Muslim voters countered it by consolidating in favour of a non-BJP party. Now, the Modi factor has energised the BJP cadre, and the BJP fears its current surge, too, faces the possibility of being countered by another consolidation of Muslim votes. At the same time, the Hindu votes could remain scattered among the BJP, the Congress and the CPM. Congress has fielded young leader T Sidique, and the CPM its sitting MP P Karunakaran.

“It is difficult for the BJP to lure existing Hindu votes from the Congress or the CPM citing the Modi factor. Besides, the Muslim population in their pockets is much higher, making any Hindu consolidation irrelevant,’’ a party source said.

Abdul Mujeeb of Muslim-majority Nayanmarmoola says Modi has created a fear among Muslims, which may reflect in the voting this time. “Nobody discusses development or politics anymore. Election talk is simply confined to Modi,’’ said Mujeeb.

Thiruvananthapuram: At the end of a campaign focused mostly on political crime and scandals, Kerala goes to polls Thursday with all 20 Lok Sabha seats voting in a single phase.

In the outgoing Lok Sabha, the Congress-led United Democratic Front has 16 MPs and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front four.

Although not an influential force in Kerala’s bipolar electoral battle, the BJP is contesting all seats this time. It has never won a single Lok Sabha or assembly seat in this state yet, but is looking at Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram as a possible means to open its account.

Declaring that the LS elections would be a referendum on CPM’s “murder politics”, the Congress kept alive the murder of CPM rebel T P Chadrasekharan as a poll issue, targeting leader of the opposition V S Achuthanandan.

The LDF failed to create any major storm against the Congress. Instead, it kept alive the solar panel scam, in which the names of close aides of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy have come up.

Both the Congress and the CPM deftly used Narendra Modi as a spectre to win minority votes — 46 per cent of the population. Modi is a “threat to national unity and secularism’’, the Congress and the CPM told Muslims. The BJP stand on the Madhav Gadgil report on Western Ghats was a Congress weapon among Christian farmers.

The run-up to polls saw the exit of the RSP from the Left camp with its candidate contesting under the UDF banner. For the first time, the LDF has fielded six candidates from the minority communities, five Christians and one Muslim. This marks a new tactic for the CPM, known as Kerala’s Hindu party.

Although the BJP is not a key player, it will aim to improve its vote share from its best of 12 per cent in 2004 when the NDA was in power.

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