BJP gains in Kerala unsettle Indian expatriates
The impressive performance of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in civic elections in the south Indian state of Kerala has created deep concern among the largely secular polity of the state.
Kerala has always prided itself on being a bastion of secularism and pluralism and since the state’s creation in November 1956, the BJP has not been successful in winning a single seat either in the assembly or in parliamentary elections.
Power in the state has always rotated between the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) or the Communist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF).
Though the BJP has not won a majority in any of the six municipal corporations, the party has, however, notched tremendous gains in Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), Calicut (Kozhikode), Quilon (Kollam) and Trichur (Thrissur). The BJP has come second in Trivandrum (with 34 seats) after the LDF (44 seats). The Congress (UDF) was relegated to the No. 3 spot with 21 seats.
The state is currently ruled by the Congress-led political front and, therefore, the party’s being pushed to the third spot is particularly biting.
It is worth noting that Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, is represented in the Parliament by the suave and polished Congressman, Shashi Tharoor.
The election results were received among Indian expatriates in Jeddah with a sense of foreboding.
“These results are alarming,” said V.M. Ibraheem, the Jeddah-based executive editor of Madhyamam, a prominent newspaper from Kerala. “Our state is known for its secular traditions, and communal politics never found favor with our electorate.”
He said the success of the BJP was a result of party President Amit Shah’s smart decision to link with the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an influential caste organization representing the Ezhava community in Kerala.
The Ezhavas had previously aligned their political fortunes with the leftists. This time, however, they went with the BJP.
According to Ibraheem, BJP leaders will now have a spring in their steps. “Their confidence is sky-high,” he said, and the UDF which was fairly soft on them during the election campaign will have to take them on aggressively to stop them in their tracks.
“The rise of BJP in Kerala is a not a good development at all because our state is known for cherishing pluralistic values,” said P.M. Mayinkutty, a senior journalist working for Malayalam News, a sister publication of Arab News. “Our state has always been known, inside and outside the country, for exemplary communal harmony between Hindus, Muslims and Christians.”
He said assembly elections were only six months away and the BJP’s good performance in municipal elections will mean that the party may finally be able to enter the assembly next year.
“If that happens, we will then see the politics of polarization taking a firm root in Kerala, as has happened in the rest of India under BJP,” said Mayinkutty.
Tharoor admitted on Saturday that the UDF’s poor performance across the state, especially in Thiruvananthapuram, called for serious thought and introspection within the Congress party.