The BJP’s ‘Open Door’ Policy
An expansionist party sounds out leaders outside its fold ahead of the 2019 LS polls
It’s official. The Bharatiya Janata Party has thrown open its doors to politicians of all hues in a bid to cobble together a credible political alternative in the state ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The lotus, saffron leaders promise, will bloom in Kerala.
There’s already a buzz in Thiruvananthapuram’s political circles. They’re talking of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s occasional praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Other ‘possibles’ being spoken of include the incumbent Lok Sabha member from Kollam,N.K. Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), former Kannur MP of the Congress, K. Sudhakaran, Travancore Dewasom Board chief and ex-MLA, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, Kerala Congress
(M) leader and former finance minister, K.M. Mani, two former CPI(M) legislators and a popular Malayalam film actor.
Although most of the people whose names are doing the rounds, including Tharoor, dismiss suggestions that they are looking towards the BJP, party state president Kummanam Rajasekharan says they are looking at a significant expansion of the NDA in Kerala. “We will win the confidence of the minorities and bring in people who believe in the BJP and PM Modi,” he said on April 13 in Thiruvananthapuram, evidently buoyed by the BJP’s successes in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.
Echoing the same confidence, former state unit chief P.S. Sreedharan says the saffron party will focus on the 5-6 constituencies where it has been successful in creating a base. And he feels that “Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s whimsical style of governance” is only helping their cause. The party also feels it has found “significant resonance” with the people on issues like the Law Academy strike (against the principal and the Left-leaning management), the land grab scandal in Munnar (where the “CPI(M)-backed land mafia are on the back foot”), and most recently, the moving protests by Jishnu Pranoi’s mother (the engineering student’s suicide and his mother’s fight for justice have had the Pinarayi government in a bind).
This is much more than the party has ever attempted in Kerala. With the Ezhava-dominated Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, tribal leader C.K. Janu and the P.C. Thomas-led Kerala Congress already in its fold, the BJP is looking to further consolidate its votebank. “Other than Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod, the party will focus on Kozhikode, Palakkad, Thrissur and Pathanamthitta constituencies. We have started work already,” says a senior BJP leader.
Allaying all doubts on whether the state BJP’s open invitation had Delhi’s blessings, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu, on a visit here on April 13, described the Congress as “a sinking ship”, and called upon all “sensible and credible leaders to join the BJP”. The minister also, rather tellingly, described Tharoor as an “intelligent politician”.
SAFFRON TINT BJP state president Kummanam at a party rally