Why Yogi Adityanath in BJP's Kerala yatra is a damp squib
The saffron party is desperately hoping to cash in on the 'love jihad' propaganda over Hadiya case.
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The BJP's much-hyped 15-day Kerala "Janraksha Yatra" across 11 districts was kicked off yesterday (October 3) from Payyannur, a town in the northern part of Kannur. While BJP president Amit Shah flagged off the march, it was led by party state chief Kummanam Rajasekharan.
For the record, the yatra had to be postponed twice for various reasons - from loss of face following the medical college scam involving state BJP leaders, lack of commitment and factionalism in the state unit to Shah’s own busy itinerary.
On the second day, UP chief minister and fiery Hindutva mascot Yogi Adityanath joined the yatra that kept the national media, especially TV channels, busy with their blatantly disproportionate coverage of the foot march. Ironically, this news was drowned out in the Malayalam news channels following actor Dileep's bail in a molestation case that rocked the southern state a few months ago.
A quick perusal of prime time shows in top news channels across the state, including Asianet, Manorama, Mathrubhumi, News 18 Kerala and Media One, revealed that none of them were much interested in the Janraksha Yatra. In fact, it was not even discussed in passing. Though it’s not clear if it was Amit Shah’s departure on the first night itself (purportedly on account of “unavoidable reasons”) that has resulted in the royal snub from the local media.
The BJP’s strategy to utilise the Modi government’s rule in New Delhi to improve its standing in the state hasn’t really made any impact so far and the beleaguered state unit is struggling to retain it’s only prominent ally, the BDJS (Bharat Dharma Jana Sena), which has been sulking for a while. The BDJS is seemingly upset with the BJP's central leadership which failed to "fulfil their commitments".
The only development in BJP’s outreach to Kerala so far has been the appointment of Delhi-based Malayali Alphons Kannanthanam as Union minister, overriding the wishes of the state unit leaders. It is seen as an overture towards the powerful Catholic Church, but its attempts to woo the Church-backed outfit, Kerala Congress (M), has come to nought as the back channel talks between Kerala Congress (M) and CPI (M) indicate.
Kannanthanam’s missionary work for the RSS in the state hasn’t earned him any new admirers. On the contrary, his “Kakoos theory” (his remarks on toilet) around the hike in tariffs of petroleum products made him the butt of ridicule in the local press.
It is also to be seen if the arrival of firebrand leader Adityanath, who plays a "double role" in Uttar Pradesh - chief minister as well as a chief mahant, would win the party votes or would backfire even as it tries to appease the clergy and win over the laity in the state.
The Vengara Assembly bypoll is scheduled for October 15 in Malappuram district where the BJP got a mere 7,000 votes in 2016. Although the BJP ultimately managed to placate ally BDJS to back their Vengara candidate on the eve of the commencement of the padayatra, the public perception of BJP as a political pariah - very much on a par with Islamist outfits like the SDPI - hasn’t changed much in this "bipolar" state.
What BJP could yet hope to tap into, is the “love jihad” propaganda that has resonated with a section of the majority community because of the "lopsided" media coverage of the Hadiya case, which has seen many twists and turns.
But a similar case involving the “ghar wapsi” of Athira was followed by shocking revelations on the Yoga centre where she underwent counselling, torture and reconversion. Interestingly, the BJP has got popular lyricists Vayalar Sarath Chandravarma (son of legendary lyricist Vayalar Ramavarma) and Anil Panachooran to write songs on this topic and launched them in the run-up to the yatra.
But then again, appeals by the likes of Yogi Adityanath are unlikely to yield them any sympathy in a state, where its people prioritise communal harmony over illusions of “vikas” revolving around the land of milk and honey in the western coast of the country.
In the run-up to the BJP padyatra, the RSS Sanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat's address on the ocassion of Vijaya Dashami was noticed for his pronouncements on Kerala and its government.
He accused the administration of turning a blind eye to jihadi and anti-national elements and even of appeasing them on occasions. Similar accusations were made by the Modi government’s spinmeister, Arun Jaitley.
On October 2, Prakash Javadekar upped the ante by likening the CPI (Marxist) government with CPI (Maoist) accusing them of eliminating their political rivals, conveniently forgetting the BJP’s culpability in perpetuating political violence in Kannur.
The BJP hopes that by making such a song and dance about the roadshow in Kerala in the national media, it can win votes in states like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. They aim to project themselves as the sole proprietor of "nationalism" and "national identity" while clubbing all Left parties as anti-national and the Congress as a mute spectator.
One can't help but wonder what makes the BJP so scared of the Left that is now practically limited to Kerala and Tripura?
It probably reckons that as they subsume the Congress in state after state, the Left can still counter the propaganda of the Sangh Parivar and give them a stiff competition, including in terms of violence, if it came to that.
The ideological war on JNU was also part of that strategy as they realised that the future leaders of the Left emerge largely from the premier institute that has acted as a bulwark against the Sangh ideology and its notions of a Hindu Rashtra.
A word of caution for the CPM and Pinarayi Vijayan might be in order. If they turn a blind eye to the BJP’s Hindutva tactics and polarisation in order to wrest the minority votes in the state from Muslim League and the UDF, it would only backfire in the long run as delusions of captive votebanks have fallen flat in a state like West Bengal.
As the padyatra reached its second day, it has only been plagued by more controversies as it emerged that BJP had to import cadres from Mangalore and Coastal Karnataka to show its strength of support.
The national media, however, will perhaps project this as a saffron surge in a state where people are programmed to prioritise human beings over cows, regardless of their religious affiliations.