Tripura election result 2018: BJP's resounding victory in North East state rattles red bastion in Kerala

The landslide victory that the Bharatiya Janata Party got in the northeastern state of Tripura has rattled Kerala the most. The saffron party's first ever victory over the Communists has not only shaken the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) but also the Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in the southern state.

The two fronts, which have been ruling the state alternately for the last three decades, were contenting themselves that the secular-minded people of Kerala will not allow BJP to sell its Hindutva agenda in the state.

Thiruvananthapuram-based political analyst Jacob George said the BJP had exploded this myth in the Assembly elections by ending the quarter-century communist rule in Tripura and taking the party close to power in the two minority-dominated states of Nagaland and Meghalaya.

BJP supporters hold up a placard of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after party's victory in Tripura Assembly elections results in Agartala on Saturday. PTI

BJP supporters hold up a placard of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after party's victory in Tripura Assembly elections results in Agartala on Saturday. PTI

He pointed out that the saffron party had achieved this without playing the communal cards that it used effectively to conquer the Hindi belt. Jacob attributed BJP's success to its master campaign tactics and willingness to join hands with anybody, including divisive forces.

"BJP wiped out Congress in Tripura by 'buying' its top leaders and then made inroads into the Communist bastions by highlighting the raw deal the people received from the 25 years of Communist rule. If the party adopts the same tactics in the state, it will be able to capture power in Kerala," Jacob told Firstpost.

Dhanraj, another political analyst, pointed out that the saffron party was able to make inroads into all regions of Tripura, including the Bengali belt, by projecting an alternate development agenda that would bring jobs to youths and better living conditions to the common man.

"BJP in Kerala has been focusing its attention on political issues so far. The party will be able to sway the youths and the middle class if it presents a credible development agenda before the people, who have been voting for either front in the absence of a third alternative," he added.

BJP national president Amit Shah, who is considered as the architect of the party's victories in at least a dozen states, has signalled that his next target is Kerala. Dhanraj feels Shah may adopt the same strategy he has experimented successfully in Tripura in Kerala too.

"This will be catastrophic for both the fronts since they have not been able to break the development jinx in the state. Both have been resting on the laurels of the past achievements on the social front. With these achievements showing signs of crumbling in the absence of corresponding growth in the productive sectors, disenchantment against the two is mounting among the people," he added.

The BJP has not been able to cash in on this as it did not have a leader with a wider appeal. The party's national leadership is trying to solve this problem by cultivating leaders like Alphonse Kannanthanam, who belongs to the minority community, which accounts for 46 percent of the population in the state. Political observers believe that he was promoted as a union minister with this objective in mind.

The two dominant fronts have been going easy thinking that the BJP will affect the other. The optimism of the Congress was based on the calculation that BJP's alliance with Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a new outfit of the lower caste Ezhavas will affect the CPM the most.

The party believed that the alliance would take away the CPM votes since Ezhavas constituted the major chunk of the Communist cadre. But the local body elections in November 2015 and the Assembly polls in May 2016 proved its calculations wrong. The Congress was relegated to the third position in most places where the BJP made advances.

This is one reason why the state unit of the CPM is opposing any understanding with the Congress tooth and nail. Jacob said that if the party does not recognise the danger posed by the BJP, Pinarayi Vijayan will be last Communist chief minister in Kerala as predicted by Shah.

The state leadership of CPM has been following a strategy of weakening the UDF by wooing its constituents. While the party has already brought the Janata Dal (U) out from the UDF, it is trying to bring the Kerala Congress (M) which quit the Opposition coalition in the wake of the Assembly election into the LDF fold before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

The state leadership of the CPM believe that they will be able to continue in power as their counterparts in West Bengal and Tripura did earlier if the Congress is crushed. However, a large section of the cadres believes it will pave the way for the BJP to capture power in the state.

Party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who advocated electoral adjustments with the Congress and other secular parties to defeat the BJP and its communal agenda, had viewed this as the result of parochial thinking on the part of the state unit.

Terming it as suicidal at the state conference of the party last month, Yechury had warned the state leaders not to consider the party as Communist Party of Kerala Marxist. Defending his line, Yechury told the comrades that CPM was not what they perceive in Kerala and added that the party could not take a political line for the entire country based on one state or one group.

Jacob believes that the huge setback the CPM has suffered in Tripura may force the state unit to have a rethinking on the stand they had taken on the political line at the central committee meeting at Kolkata in February. If they fail, it will be described as another historic blunder at the coming party congress at Hyderabad in April, he added.

Jacob said that there was strong resentment among a large section of the cadres about the adamant stand the state unit had taken on the political line. Many of them believe that it is part of the widening power equations in the party than based on the ground realities.

Jacob feels that the resentment will grow following the ignominious defeat the party has suffered in Tripura, forcing the state leadership to change their stand. Indications in this regard came when CPM Ernakulam district secretary P Rajeev conceded that the party may have to think of strategies to check the BJP without affecting its support base in the state.

Jacob thinks that the CPM, as well as Congress, will face extinction in the state if they were not ready to take a united stand to counter the BJP surge.

Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 19:04 PM

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