The Bharatiya Janata Party government’s decision to nominate Malayalam action hero Suresh Gopi to Rajya Sabha is viewed by rival parties as BJP's desperate attempt to open its account in the Assembly. They feel that the decision ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election tour to the state was clearly aimed at influencing the electorate.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) secretary Jyothi Kumar feels that the move was intended to serve a campaign point. Union Minister of State for Skill Development Rajiv Pratap Rudy had earlier made the promise of a ministerial position in the Modi government, if the party gets an MLA in the state Assembly.
Rudy had made the offer while inaugurating a district convention of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by the party in Malappuram recently. In the course of his speech, he went to offer even two seats in the Cabinet, if the party gets two MLAs in the state Assembly.
The party began their poll preparation saying that they were contesting the election to rule the state. Later, they scaled down their tally to 10 seats. The rival parties view the climb down as BJP’s realization that it was not easy to make an electoral breakthrough in Kerala.
“We are sure that the BJP workers will push their campaign by projecting the actor as a future Union minister. This is not going to help the party in winning any seat in the Assembly. The voters of Kerala will see through their game plan,” said Jyothi Kumar.
He said that the party had earlier promised to give Gopi the post of chairman of National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). It did not materialize due to opposition from various quarters. The current move to elevate Suresh Gopi, who joined the party only a year ago, will also end up like that.
“If the BJP was sincere in having a representative from the state in the Union ministry, they could have nominated either Gopi or anybody else to Rajya Sabha earlier as the last BJP-led government headed by Atal Behari Vajapyee done. Vajpayee had got senior leader O Rajagopal elected to the RS from Madhya Pradesh and made him a member of the ministry,” he pointed.
“Their current attempt 'to give one and get one' in the middle of the election is a marketing gimmick that won’t succeed. I am not sure it is possible at all to appoint a nominated member as a minister. Even if it is possible, it is against the democratic propriety,” Jyothi Kumar said.
Suresh Gopi has denied any political motive behind his nomination. He said that it could not be viewed as a political act as he has been nominated under the art category. He has described it as a personal gift from the Prime Minister.
The 55-year-old actor, who has acted in more than 200 films, was earlier offered a seat in Thiruvananthapuram district to contest the Assembly election, but he declined the offer and chose to campaign for the party. Since then he has been actively campaigning for the BJP candidates in various parts of the state.
He is expected to accompany the Prime Minister during his campaign tours in the state next month and also share the podium with him. Modi is scheduled to address six public meetings as part of his election campaign in the state.
Suresh Gopi, who never showed any political inclination, had fallen under Modi’s charm after he met him in March 2014 for the first time while he was chief minister of Gujarat. The actor said he was captivated by Modi’s anxiety to gather even minor details of everything that happened in Kerala in the last 20 years.
Though Gopi had no intention to enter politics, Modi tried to draw him close to him by inviting the actor to his swearing-in ceremony. The actor has been a vocal supporter of Modi since then. He decided to join the BJP last year.
Political observers feel that the timing of Gopi’s nomination was suspicious. They said that they would not be surprised, if the rival parties find impropriety in the decision. Jacob George, a political commentator, said that if the BJP was keen to use the actor’s service they could have accommodated him earlier.
Jacob feels that the BJP may have nominated him now to give an advantage to the party in the campaign. The BJP leaders have realized that the Modi wave that helped the party to improve its vote share in the Lok Sabha and local body election in the state, may not work in the Assembly election.
The party had hoped that the Prime Minister’s visit to Kollam to see the victims of the temple fireworks mishap on the same day would enthuse voters but it has not produced the intended result. There has been no marked improvement in the response of the people to the BJP campaign, says Jacob.
The party is worried as even their central leaders and ministers were not able to draw the kind of crowd they attracted earlier. Jacob, who is now touring from the state capital to the northern tip of the state for a television programme says that he found the BJP workers becoming restless in many places.
This is clearly a sign of the desperation creeping into the party’s rank and file. The party seems to have realized that it was not easy to win an election in a state like Kerala, where the minorities constitute a major chunk of the electorate.
The party had hoped that it could fuel a Hindu consolidation with the help of caste outfits like the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogm, an organization of the lower caste Ezhava community, but it seems to have alienated the upper caste Nair community led by Nair Service Society (NSS) from the party.
Even a sizable section of the Ezhavas have not reconciled to the political moves of SNDP leader Vellappally Natesan and his son Thushar Vellappally. This section is keeping a distance from the Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), which was floated by the duo to forge a political alliance with the BJP.
This means that the alliance with the Ezhava community may not yield the intended result for the BJP. Securing substantial Hindu votes will not be sufficient for the party to win seats.