BJP pins hope on attracting minority leaders as its Hindutva, beef politics fails in leftist Kerala

Kerala Vanitha League president Kamarunnisa Anwar’s acknowledgement of its fast growth in the southern state and the rest of the country had put the state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in an upbeat mood.

The state BJP leadership had viewed her observation that the BJP would be able to do good for the people and the state while inaugurating its fund collection drive in Muslim-dominated Malappuram district as an endorsement of the BJP’s development politics and the efforts of its government at the Centre to protect the Muslim women.

BJP's Hindutva politics has failed to earn any dividend in Kerala. PTI

BJP's Hindutva politics has failed to earn any dividend in Kerala. PTI

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), her parent party, has quelled the controversy by sacking her from the post. The party had on Friday sought to close the issue after the woman leader tendered an apology to IUML state president Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal, saying that her statement to the local television channels was a slip of the tongue.

However, he found it difficult to shield the woman leader after a large number of IUML activists thronged his house on Friday night demanding her expulsion from the party. The leadership was left without any option after the workers threatened not to vote for the party. The IUML workers were furious because of Anwar’s close links with the saffron party.

They felt that Anwar, who was nominated as a member of the High Power Committee of the Central Social Welfare Board recently, had lavished praise on the BJP as a mark of gratitude to the Narendra Modi government for her elevation. The workers feared that Anwar, who has a close association with BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekharan, may ultimately make her way to the Hindutva party.

The BJP leaders were not without hope, though. Sources in the party said that the party chief himself had personally invited Anwar to the BJP. Party workers had welcomed the move as they felt that her entry would have helped the party to remove the apprehensions nursed by Muslims against BJP.

Anwar, who was widely regarded as a firebrand and a progressive woman leader, was critical of her party for not taking a stand on the sensitive issue of triple talaq that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to address. She had also come out openly against the IUML leadership for not giving representation to women in the state Assembly.

A section of the BJP workers in the district hopes that she may embrace BJP in the wake of her removal from the post of the Vanitha League president. The BJP's Malappuram district president K Ramachandran told Firstpost that they would wholeheartedly welcome her if she would like to associate with the party.

"Anwar’s open praise of our party is a strong indication of the change in the thinking among minorities about the BJP. It has given a new vigour to the party. Minorities in the state had maintained distance from the BJP as they felt we would cause harm to them. The three years of Modi governance has removed this apprehension,” he claimed.

Ramachandran said that many Muslims in Kerala were not ready to openly align with the BJP due to threats from the radical sections of the community. The extremists will not be able to hold them long, he said, adding that many Muslims were overtly and covertly supporting the party now.

The state BJP leadership views Anwar’s praise for the BJP as a success of its strategy to woo the minorities by focusing on development politics. Party general secretary MT Ramesh told Firstpost that the statement of IUML's Vanitha League's president was a reflection of the thinking of women, who have no strong political affiliations, about his party. He hoped that it will help the BJP to reach out to minorities.

The party, which has targeted 12 seats from the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, knows very well that it cannot make any headway in Kerala without the support of the minorities, who account for about 44 percent of the state’s 3.2 crore population.

The BJP had earlier tried to cement its position in the state by uniting the Hindus. However, it dropped the plank after its alliance with Bhartiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a political outfit of the numerically strong lower caste Ezhava Hindu community, failed to give any dividend.

This had become clear in the Malappuram Lok Sabha bypoll in which the party could garner only 900 votes more compared to 2014 elections, despite the support of the BDJS which holds sway over a large chunk of the 30 percent Hindu votes in the constituency.

The BJP had also tried to woo the Muslims in the constituency by watering down its beef politics. The party candidate’s offer to provide quality beef if he was elected to the Lok Sabha had no takers among Muslim voters. The BJP has realised that it would not be able to break the jinx in Malappuram without the support of influential Muslim community outfits.

The BJP strategy to drop the Hindu unity plank has also not helped the party in the Christian belt. The party’s efforts suffered a setback when the Kerala Congress (M), a pro-Christian regional party they wooed into the NDA fold, showed signs of leaning towards the Left Democratic Front (LDF).

The KC (M), which had quit the UDF after the Assembly polls in April last year, has made its intentions clear by dislodging the Congress from power in the Kottayam district panchayat with the support of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in violation of an agreement reached with the Congress at the time of the divorce so as not to upset the political equations in the local bodies.

The BJP had pinned its hope on the KC (M) after its bid to win the confidence of different denominations of the Christian community did not yield any result. The party is now trying to focus on various fringe groups in the community to strengthen its position in the Christian-dominated central Kerala.

However, the move by the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh to renew the bid for building the Ram Temple at Ayodhya may make the task difficult. The various moves of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to implement the BJP’s Hindutva agenda have raised fresh concerns among the minority communities in the state.

Updated Date: May 07, 2017 15:56 PM

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