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Amit Shah sells his UP dream to Kerala, but will it work?

This fact about the Sangh Parivar in Kerala is legendary: it has the largest number of RSS "sakhas" in the country, but, the people of the state refuse to elect a single BJP candidate to the parliament or the state assembly.

Apparently, the new BJP president Amit Shah wants to change it and make Kerala another UP.

 Amit Shah sells his UP dream to Kerala, but will it work?

Amit Shah. Reuters

For him, Kerala is the last bastion for the BJP in the south. The party has been struggling hard in the state, but with little success. He assures the leaders and the cadres that this can be turned around. The party has found success in Tamil Nadu, which was only next to Kerala in terms of its impregnability. The situation has changed in the state, its voteshare has galloped and it has solid alliance partners that are standing by even for the the upcoming local body by-elections.

Amit Shah has his reasons for his bet on the state, which reportedly his party leaders in the state weren’t too confident about. As DNA reported on Monday, he cited the example of Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP won 72 out of the 80 seats in the parliament elections, to his leaders in the state.

Apparently, the state had won more than 50,000 seats only in 17 constituencies in UP; in comparison, in Kerala the number of such constituencies is 19 out of 20. Reportedly, he has also cited Maharashtra and Gujarat, where once the presence of the Sangh was weaker than in Kerala. According to him, the strong RSS base in the state is a great platform to start from. The first step is a membership drive to augment the party base.

Is he too optimistic?

Seemingly yes, because Kerala is not UP and Keralites’ political loyalty is strictly divided between the Communists and the Congress. The Sangh may have been able to penetrate into towns and villages with its “sakhas" for several years, but when it comes to political votes, they are woefully inadequate. In other words, the maximum mobilisation that the party has seen is in the form of the spread of the RSS. It’s not enough for winning elections.

Where will the additional votes come from when the polarisation of loyalty is so strong? For that to happen, one of the two players - either the Communists or the Congress - has to lose its ground.

Will it happen? Doubtful.

However, what’s been happening in the state is certainly a rise in the sympathy for the BJP at least in certain pockets. For instance, in the parliament elections, Shashi Tharoor escaped with a slender margin from his BJP rival O Rajagopal in the Thiruvananthapuram constituency. The party apparently led in about 60 plus wards, out of the 100, in the constituency and Rajagopal looked capable of toppling Tharoor till the last round. The same sentiment had been expected in the past too and the margin of the BJP has been rising since it first showed signs of promise in the capital. That Rajagopal came second, ahead of the Communist candidate, itself was a moral victory for the party.

In the last elections, the party polled about 11 percent of the votes and if it can break it down to local victories in the local body elections next year, that will be a huge boost of confidence for the leaders and the cadre. Building it up from the bottom will be Amit Shah’s strategy and the party is keenly looking forward to the local body elections.

The BJP has one more reality to deal with in its plans for conquering the state - the state’s demography. Hindus constitute only 56 percent of the population. About 24 percent are Muslims and 19 percent, Christians. This is a limited catchment for votes. And this catchment has been strongly divided between the Communists and Congress for generations. To wean people away will be a tough task.

Some analysts feel that the BJP will gain from an erosion of the base of the Communists, who appear to be on a weak wicket. In the parliament elections, despite significant pitfalls, the Congress has won majority of the seats because of the weakness of the Communists and their allies. Even a politburo member of the CPM lost to a relatively low weight candidate. This is an opportunity that the BJP would like to exploit.

For the BJP to win, either the Congress of the Communists, or both have to lose. At the moment the Communists look more vulnerable; but will that be enough for electoral gains? Highly doubtful.

Unless there is a remarkable transformation among the Hindu votes that back either the Congress or the Communists, the BJP will still be a long way from a victory in the assembly or parliament elections. What’s meanwhile worrying is if it will try some tricks to religiously polarise an otherwise communally sensible state.

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Updated Date: Sep 08, 2014 20:24:08 IST