Monday, April 22, 2024
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Ground realities tell a different story before Lok Sabha Polls

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Has Narendra Modi’s Kerala visit boosted BJP prospects?

By P Sreekumaran

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in Kerala are on cloud nine. They think that Prime Minister’ Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Thrissur will help them win five to six seats in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. But, the BJP’s chances of opening their LS account from Kerala this time around are not at all bright, given the ground realities in the State, which has remained BJP-hostile and a secular bastion.
No doubt, the Prime Minister’s visit to Thrissur did create ripples. The massive crowds that thronged the Thekkinkadu Maidan where Modi delivered a fiery speech must have gladdened saffron hearts. But they must realize one thing. Managing a crowd is easy for a party like BJP which has enormous resources and manpower at its disposal. The million dollar question is: will all the people who flocked to Thekkinkadu Maidan be at the polling booths to vote for the BJP?
Opinion is sharply divided on this crucial question. The Prime Minister, for a change, singled out women for special praise in his speech. He spoke at length about the benefits his government has showered on women. Did it have any appreciable impact on the women present? Highly unlikely given the misrepresentation of facts and bipartisan nature of Kerala politics.
Of course, there is a reason why Modi chose Thrissur for special attention. The constituency is one where the BJP fancies its chances very high. BJP candidate and superstar of Malayalam cinema Suresh Gopi put up a spirited fight before losing in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. BJP is all set to field Gopi again from Thrissur. And his proximity to Modi is an open secret. How close the duo are is evident from Modi’s decision to attend Suresh’s daughter’s wedding to be held in the temple town of Guruvayoor later this month. The PM’s visit will be a game-changer this time, upsetting all equations. That is what the BJP leaders and activists feel. The ground realities are, however, entirely different.
Thrissur constituency has a sizable population of Christians. BJP leaders in Kerala say the PM’s latest overtures to the Christian community has had a big impact and that they will vote for the saffron party in a big way, abandoning their traditional allies Congress. What is the perception among the Christians? It is true, Modi’s dinner to prominent Christian leaders was a determined attempt to curry favour with the community. But The Prime Minister is unlikely to make a dent in the Christian voter support to both the Congress and to the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF).
Modi would have succeeded in wooing the Christians in a big way if only he had adopted a different strategy. For one thing, a sizable section of the Christians are unhappy about the failure of Christian leaders to raise the issue of horrific attacks against Christians and Christian churches in Manipur. Their silence and the PM’s refusal to refer to the sensitive issue has not gone down well with a big sliced of Christian voters. Modi would have fared better if he had expressed regrets on the unspeakable barbarities inflicted on the Christians in Manipur. That would have acted as a salve to the devastated community. Remember, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tendered a public apology for the Operation Bluestar . And that went a long way in assuaging the hurt feelings of the Sikh community, and helped the Congress to regain their trust to some extent. Modi lost a big opportunity to earn the goodwill of Christians in a similar way.
Also, the PM’s speech at the Thrissur meeting was strong on rhetoric and weak on facts. For instance, in his speech, Modi had said that everyone knew which office was engaged in gold smuggling! That was a reference to the Kerala Chief Minister and his office. But the tactic seems to have boomeranged. CPI(M) leaders effectively countered the Modi claim by pointing out that it was the failure of the Central government agencies which resulted in sabotaging the gold smuggling case. CPI(M) state secretary went to the extent of saying that the Central Government was protecting the gold smuggling accused. The gold was smuggled through diplomatic channels. The State had no role in the affairs of airports. Why did the Centre fail to arrest the accused who is based in a foreign country? That was LDF’S poser to the PM. Modi was merely trying to sensationalise the issue with a political aim to kickstart a campaign against the State with an eye on the LS elections. The CPI(M) also said that multiple central agencies could not find a shred of evidence against the CM and the CMO. The reality is the probe has entered a blind alley.
Likewise, PM’s claims of having done much to strengthen women’s empowerment also sounded hollow. He claimed credit for getting the Women’s reservation Bill in Parliament. The Opposition called it an election stunt as the Bill is unlikely to become a law before 2029. Similarly, his refusal to condemn the parading of women naked in Manipur and the horrible incidents like Kathwa and Hathras has evoked extreme anger in the Christian community. And the anger is bound to reflect in the voting in the parliamentary polls. And last but not the least is the verdict in the Bilkis Bano case. It is a stinging rebuff to the Gujarat Government and the union Government.
All this proves the hollowness of the PM’s care for women in the country. And what are the credentials of Suresh Gopi who wants to contest from Thrissur? His misbehaviour with a woman journalist had caused all-round revulsion and evoked strong condemnation. This being the ground reality, the BJP’s hopes of opening its account from Kerala are unlikely to fructify, the Prime Minister’s aggressive campaign in Kerala notwithstanding. (IPA Service)

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