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BJP's abrasive campaigns on terrorism and 'love jihad' may backfire in Kerala's Muslim belt

‘Jihadi terror’ and ‘love jihad’, slogans that the Bharatiya Janata Party coined to woo the Hindus and Christians in the southern Indian state of Kerala, have become a burden for the saffron party in the Muslim belt.

The party is facing the heat of the aggressive campaign it launched against the sensational issues during its Janaraksha Yatra as it wound its way to the election-bound Vengara in Malappuram district.

Though the party chose to skip the communal issue during its campaign for the assembly by-election to be held on 11 October, the echoes of the fire-breathing speeches made by BJP national president Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the initial phase of the campaign in Kannur district were felt at Vengara.

The party has sought to cool the tempers by fielding Minority Morcha national president Abdul Rasheed Ansari and party spokesman Shanawaz Hussain. While Ansari addressed a morcha convention at Vengara on Friday, Hussain joined the Janaraksha Yatra in the district on Sunday.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is also expected to join the yatra at Vengara in the evening. Fadnavis is the head of a team entrusted with the task of winning 12 Lok Sabha seats from Kerala in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections for the party under a grand plan devised to focus on about 130 winnable Lok Sabha seats, which the BJP had missed in 2014.

Though Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, one of the most prominent Muslim faces in the BJP, was to join the march in Malappuram, his programme was cancelled at the last moment for reasons not known. The party’s critics believe that it may have been cancelled as the yatra had lost its sheen after Amit Shah skipped his second leg at Pinarayi, the home village of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The march led by BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekharan suffered another jolt on Sunday when the police registered a case against former president V Muralidharan for airing live on Facebook intimidating slogans party workers raised against CPM Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan during the march.

The Koothuparampa police have also booked the BJP workers, who threatened Jayarajan. The CPM leader had lost one of his hands in an attack by RSS men 18 years ago. The BJP workers participating in the yatra had threatened to take his other hand too.

The BJP changed the tone of the yatra after it crossed the Malappuram district boundary in the morning. The leaders switched to a pro-Muslim mould as the yatra waded through the district. Before the entry of the yatra in Malappuram district, BJP general secretary M T Ramesh sought to dispel apprehension in the minds of the Muslims over the ‘Love Jihad’ slogan, saying that the BJP had no intention to mix politics in the issue.

“The BJP is not a party in the Hadiya case. The parties in the case are the parents, who have lost their daughter. We have no intention to bring politics into it," Ramesh said at a press conference at Kozhikode. As regards jihadi terror, he said that the party’s fight was not directed against the Muslims but the extremist organisations promoting it.

The BJP is locked in a close fight for the third position at Vengara with the pro-Muslim Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) focusing their campaign against the Hindutva party’s move to put the community in the dock over terrorism and 'love jihad'.

The BJP, which had secured third position at Vengara in the 2011 Assembly election with a total vote share of 7,055 was relegated to fourth position by the SDPI in the Lok Sabha by-election held in April 2016 with 5,952 votes.

The by-election was necessitated after sitting legislator and senior Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader P K Kunhalikutty vacated the seat following his election to the Lok Sabha from Malappuram. Kunhalikutty had won the Assembly seat in the 2016 assembly poll by a margin of over 38,000 votes. The margin in the segment went up to over 40,000 votes in the Lok Sabha by-election.

The BJP, which had fielded a Muslim candidate in the 2016 polls, is experimenting with fielding a Hindu this time. K Janachandran, the party nominee, has been careful not to antagonize the Muslim voters by raising communally sensitive issues. He has also avoided the Janaraksha Yatra slogans.

IUML leaders feel that the BJP may have abandoned the slogans as they have realized that it won’t work in Malappuram, where Hindus have been living in harmony with the minority community for centuries. Youth League state secretary Mujeeb Kaderi said that there has been no friction between the two communities in the district.

He told Firstpost that the BJP’s love jihad slogan would also not make any impact at Vengara as there has not been even a single case of such conversion there. The Hindus know this well and they would reject the false propaganda. The drop in BJP votes in the Lok Sabha by-election is a clear indication that the Hindus in Vengara are not with the BJP.

“Though the majority community constitute nearly 20 percent of the total electorate of 1.70 lakhs at Vengara, the BJP could not muster even 25 per cent of the Hindu votes in any election there. This shows that the Hindus do not trust the communal politics of the BJP,” he added.

Kaderi said that Hindus in Malappuram were aware that IUML as a dominant political force in the district was always in the forefront in promoting communal harmony. The Malappuram district panchayat president is a Dalit. Another Hindu, KP Raman Master, who came to Malappuram after he lost his parents, was adopted by a Muslim and he became a party MLA.

“The Muslims in Malappuram are also in the forefront in helping Hindus in times of their needs. The party mobilized Rs.25 lakhs for the liver transplantation of a Hindu girl living near the house of Kunhalikutty at Vengara. She needed only Rs.15 lakhs for the surgery but we collected Rs.10 lakhs more. The remaining money was used to build a house for the family,” he added.

He said that all madrasas and Muslim organisations in the area had joined hands together in collecting the funds. The local as well as non-resident Muslims working in the Gulf countries also contributed liberally to the fund, said the Youth League leader.

He said that the IUML had not tried to join forces against the BJP over terrorism and love jihad as the party felt that issues affecting the life of common people were more important than these trivial issues. The party, therefore, has been focusing attention on the price rise and other anti-people policies of both the union and state governments.

He is hopeful that this would help the party to improve its winning margin at Vengara.

Updated Date: Oct 08, 2017 16:52 PM

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