If Javedkar wants to please his bosses in Delhi, he should make Kerala BJP leaders to be united. Even as there hasn't been any success in the election front (not even a single MLA in the Kerala assembly) as of now, BJP state units are facing serious issues like having multiple factions led by local leaders.
Since Prakash Keshav Javadekar, the former union IT and Environment Minister, became Kerala 'Prabhari' (in-charge) of Bharatiya Janta Party, he has used every opportunity to tear apart the Left government in the state. Unlike the typical Kerala state BJP leaders, Javadekar hasn't remained silent in commenting on relevant political developments in the state.
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As Javadekar celebrates his 72nd birthday today (January 30), we look at his work and responsibilities in the new role as BJP party in-change in Kerala, a state where the party is still struggling to open an account.
He condemned the Left government for reinducting Saji Cherian, the former Fisheries minister, who had to quit the Cabinet six months back following his controversial statements against the Constitution
, as a minister with the same portfolio, and also criticised the government's move to rundown Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan and arraigned the government for appropriating central government schemes.
Recently, Javadekar also said that the Left government is using vendetta politics against K Surendran, Kerala state BJP president, by booking him under the Manjeshwaram bribery case.
Surendaran had led the Sabarimala anti-women entry protest in 2018. The protest was against the CPI (M)-led government's decision to implement a Supreme Court order verdict in September 2017, which stated that women are not inferior to men and that the patriarchy of religion cannot be permitted to triumph over faith. But in 2018, the court issued a verdict stating that "biological or physiological reasons cannot be accepted in freedom of faith," a victory for BJP and Hindu believers, though the party wasn't ready to lead the Sabarimala protest first but came to the forefront after realising the politically "golden opportunity."
Of course, that "political golden opportunity" didn't go in vain. In the 2021 state elections, BJP increased its vote share compared to the 2016 elections. In 2021, BJP had secured 11.30 percent of the total votes polled. In 2016, it was 10.53 percent.
But in 2016, the party had one MLA, O Rajagopal --a former minister in the the latest AB Vajpayee government-- who won the Nemom assembly constituency in Kerala. He was the sole MLA from BJP and its coalition National Democratic Alliance.
Unfortunately, in 2021, BJP failed to maintain the seat, despite senior leader Kummanam Rajasekharan, an RSS member with 50 years of political experience in Kerala, being put in the fray. Kummanam was then Mizoram governor (2021) and was 'instructed' by BJP national leadership to resign from the governor post and contest in the constituency. However, in the 2021 assembly election, Kummanam bagged 51,888 votes. Meanwhile, CPM candidate V Sivankutty won the seat with 55,837.
If one look at Kerala's political history till now, Rajagopal was the first and last BJP MLA in the 140-seat state assembly. In 2021, even though BJP raised its vote share by 0.77 percent compared to the 2016 election result, the NDA lost its votes. The vote share of NDA dipped by 1.53 percent in 2021 compared to the 2016 elections. Additionally, the nomination of BJP candidates in Thalassery and Guruvayur got rejected after scrutiny, and the party didn't have dummy candidates either.
This laxity from the BJP faced strong criticism from its members themselves on social media. While, Bharath Dharma Jana Sena led by Thushar Vellappaly, son of liquor baron Vellappaly Natesn, was BJP's main ally and though the alliance contested 21 seats in 2021 state polls, lost all seats.
Even though, the BJP was confident in making a breakthrough in this (2021) state election by projecting the Metroman E Sreedharan as the chief minister candidate, a statement by state president backfired the party again as Surendran said in a TV interview that if they the party will form the government if is is able to at least get 30 to 45 seats.
In brief, nothing turned out in favour of the BJP and NDA in Kerala. However, as Javedkar has expressed his confidence saying; "...there is growing popularity for BJP in the state and that's why the Pinarayi government is acting against the party and its state president Surendran with the Crime Branch 'bribe and kidnap' case."
However, as the state in-charge for BJP, Javadekar has a heavy task in hand. This writer's interactions with people on the ground and other political observers make me believe that neither the BJP nor NDA will win a seat in the 2026 state elections too.
CPM, which is ruling the state for the second consecutive term -- a first time in Kerala's political history-- has increased its vote percentage as against main opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front gradually since 2006.
In the 2021 state assembly elections, the LDF main parties, CPM and CPI, got 32.96 percent of the votes polled. At the same time, the UDF main parties, INC and IUML, got 30.92 percent.
Even if other coalition members got added to both fronts, the LDF had an upward swing of nearly 2 percent, and UDF got a rise of just 0.66 percent. Additionally, the Muslim political parties and sects are in favor of the Pinarayi-led LDF. When the Wakf board appointments were given to the public service commission, upon the request of a Muslim sect that is close to the Congress-led front, the decision was nullified.
Similarly, when an IAS officer, who is facing a trial in a hit-and-run case that killed a journalist working for a Muslim sect newspaper, was posted as a district collector, upon request and protest from certain Muslim groups, he was removed from the post.
All these shows that the CPI (M)-led LDF has gained trust of certain Muslim sects in Kerala, which can help them to swing more votes in 2026 elections and get them power again. People on the ground feel that CPM has already started the social engineering for this.
On the contrary, if we look at the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had secured 10.33 percent votes. And in 2019, it got 12.33 percent, the first election following the 2018 Sabarimala protest in Kerala. However, in the 2021 state assembly polls, BJP could secure only 11.30 percent of the votes polled.
Now, there is no supporting factors like Sabarimala protest for BJP or any other social or religious issues that the party can take advantage from. Moreover, the BJP state leadership hasn't come together in the forefront either for any people's issues, other than taking part in the local protest in the Thiruvanathapuram Municipal Corporation controversy over a recruitment attempt accommodating candidates from ruling party.
It is not that there are no issues to protest. Bad finance management has pushed the state into a debt trap. There are enough issues. There is serious unemployment problem as around 35 lakh job aspirants registered in the Kerala employment exchange are still waiting for job calls. The state is also planning to increase the tax on water, electricity, and houses.
Additionally, paddy farmers are struggling as the government hasn't paid them for their produce procured by the movement. As rubber prices are going down, rubber farmers are also in trouble.
Meanwhile, many Left sympathisers are getting jobs through back door entry in universities and government, semi-government offices.
Additionally, Kerala governor Mohammed Arif Khan is unhappy with the vice chancellor's appointment at one of a prominent University, and providing a pension for personal staff members of ministers, who all are political appointees.
"We don't see BJP anywhere here organising the grieved ones and leading them to a protest. After the Sabarimala protests, it is rare to see BJP-led pro-people rallies in the capital city, which can grab headlines the next day," says a political observer.
Now, the BJP and RSS in Kerala are busy on the streets to stop screening BBC documentaries on Modi, which often leads to commotion.
If Javadekar wants to please his bosses in Delhi, he should make Kerala BJP leaders to be united. Even as there hasn't been any win in the election front (not even a single MLA in the Kerala assembly) as of now, BJP state units are facing serious issues like having multiple factions led by local leaders such as Surendran, PK Krishnadas, V Muraleedharan, Shobha Surendran, and many others.
Interestingly, the Kerala BJP leaders are seen most often only in TV debates defending Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies and discussing other national and international issues.
If Javadekar is unable to manage the leadership factions and can't pull out these leaders from the TV studios and make them work on people issues and lead noticeable protests on the street, he may have to return to Delhi heads down. And chances for that are high.
— The author, Rejimon Kuttappan, is an independent journalist, political observer and author of the book — Undocumented, Stories of Indian Migrants In The Arab Gulf by Penguin 2021. The views expressed are personal.
(Edited by : C H Unnikrishnan)
First Published: Jan 30, 2023 2:07 PM IST
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