The BJP’s ‘Open Door’ Pol­icy

An ex­pan­sion­ist party sounds out lead­ers out­side its fold ahead of the 2019 LS polls

India Today - - STATES - By Jeemon Ja­cob

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

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