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India elections: BJP upbeat about making inroads into Kerala

India elections: BJP upbeat about making inroads into Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram - Their hopes are high on Pathanamthitta, Thrissur, Palakkad and Kasargod seats.


Anu Warrier

Published: Fri 19 Apr 2019, 11:21 PM

Last updated: Sat 20 Apr 2019, 12:11 PM

When you cross the border to Kerala from Tamil Nadu, everything changes in minutes. Near the border town of Kaliyikkavilai, traffic starts slowing down as bottlenecks appear.

And the electioneering gets louder and colourful across the border unlike the other south Indian states, where the campaign is almost calm. There are no posters of candidates or their election symbols, while announcement vehicles with speakers or loud music are a rare sight. Even the poll offices of parties in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka don't display pictures of candidates or flags outside their premises.

As you pass through Parassala town, a campaign vehicle adorned with red flags passes through. An announcer seeks votes as he campaigns for the Left Front candidate, former state minister and CPI leader C. Divakaran. He ridicules the central government for demonetisation, job losses, petrol price hike and importantly, spreading hatred among different communities. He also attacks Congress' candidate, two-term MP and former union minister Shashi Tharoor.

A few metres away, a huge cut-out of Tharoor is erected, with another billboard depicting Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on it. On the national highway alone, within two-kilometre stretch at least six campaign vehicles for different candidates passed by. And on the roadside, colourful posters, huge banners, billboards were aplenty, giving the sign of a strong political campaign.

A few kilometres ahead, near Neyyattinkara town, supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were taking out a rally, slightly blocking the traffic. Local leaders controlled them to enable swift move of vehicles. And one of them was carrying a 10-feet cutout of Kummanam Rajasekharan, the BJP candidate from the constituency.

The former state president of the BJP resigned from the post of Mizoram governor to contest the polls against Tharoor, who holds a good image among the voters in the constituency, mainly because of his soft-spoken attitude and international acceptance.

The BJP pins its hope on Rajasekharan to open an account in the state, where it never managed to get an MP. For the first time in its history, the party had a representative in the state assembly in 2016 and BJP leaders hope this time, the party would be second-time lucky with Rajasekharan's win.

During the 2014 parliament elections, BJP candidate O Rajagopal came second in the constituency, just behind Tharoor, pushing CPI candidate Dr Bennet Abraham to the third place. And in 2016 assembly polls, the BJP managed to have its first MLA in Kerala from Nemom, an assembly constituency in Thiruvananthapuram.

Apart from Thiruvananthapuram, BJP leaders claim that they would win at least four more seats in Kerala.

Their hopes are high on Pathanamthitta, Thrissur, Palakkad and Kasargod seats.

"We have confidence in our voters who see the advantage of voting for Modi government again. They are fed up with the atrocities of the left front government and the inept attitude of the Congress-led UDF," said VV Rajesh, a Yuva Morcha leader. Besides, he hoped that the party's alliance with the Bharatiuya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), recently launched by the strong Ezhava community in the state, would also work in NDA's favour.

However, more than the central government's success, the saffron party is focusing on Sabarimala issue, where the state government stood in favour of a Supreme Court order to allow the entry of women to a Hindu temple against customs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed a huge crowd at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, openly raised the issue and said once reelected, his government would take necessary measures to protect the faith of worshippers.

But State assembly's opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala was quick to react.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Chennithala slammed the Modi government for not doing anything to protect the faith and offering hollow promises.

In Pathanamthitta constituency, where the Sabarimala temple is situated, the party has fielded its firebrand leader K. Surendran, who had been jailed for violent protests against the state government's decision to implement the Supreme Court order.

The BJP has put many known faces in the fray, including Malayalam film star Suresh Gopi, who is contesting in Thrissur constituency.

The BJP has achieved more acceptance in Kerala voters after the Sabarimala issue and many swinging votes may go to the party. The issue that confuses analysts and party leaders is whether that will that be enough to win one or two seats in the state.


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