The Telegraph
Thursday , September 14 , 2017

Shah keeps Kerala BJP waiting

Amit Shah

Sept. 13: The question lingering in the minds of many a BJP worker in Kerala - what its president Amit Shah is doing in Mamata Banerjee's Bengal instead of being in Kannur - is a reflection on the confusion prevailing in the party in the southern state.

Shah was supposed to be in Kerala as part of the "Janaraksha Yatra" aimed at highlighting the "Red- jihadi terror" in the state. The march was to spend three days in Kannur alone with Shah and a host of BJP chief ministers present on the occasion.

Led by state BJP president Kummanam Rajasekharan, the yatra was initially scheduled to begin from Payyannur in Kannur district on August 23. It was postponed to September 7 with its culmination in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram on September 23.

However, it was postponed for the second time, citing "pressing" engagements for Shah in Delhi. The Janaraksha Yatra is part of "Mission Kerala", an ambitious game plan launched by Shah last May to capture at least a dozen Lok Sabha seats in the state in the next general election.

It is that grand mission which lies tattered now as Shah shifts his focus to Bengal, and the rank and file of the party don't know when the yatra will finally roll out.

It is said that Shah is "quite unhappy" with the Kerala party leadership over the recent leak of an internal inquiry report into allegations of corruption on admissions to a medical college, which has considerably dented the BJP's image in the state.

The RSS, which for all practical purposes props up the party in Kerala, has taken strong objection to the way the BJP is being run in the state, especially against the backdrop of the increasing number of corruption charges against the party. The medical college bribery charge is said to be just one of them.

There is mounting resentment within the party itself over the fast-changing lifestyles of certain leaders even without being in power. Since the BJP is a big zero in the state without the Sangh parivar cadres, the RSS feels that its handpicked man, Rajasekharan, is not being allowed to function freely by the two factions led by two former state party presidents.

On their part, the two are said to have joined hands to resist RSS "meddling". At a recent meeting, the RSS has sought disciplinary action against at least 47 BJP leaders at various levels, annoying many leaders of the party.

Even the induction of Alphons Joseph Kannanthanam, a former bureaucrat who flirted with the Left before becoming a Modi bhakt, into the Union cabinet is meant to downgrade seasoned BJP leaders, many of whom were hoping to get a call from the PMO.

Those who resented Kannanthanam initially by pretending not to take note of his appointment are now putting up a brave face by "justifying" his induction as a clever move by Shah to win over Christian votes in the state.

This theory is being ridiculed as a political joke. Someone who believes that Kannanthanam, who himself is rootless in state politics, will help the lotus grow in the fertile fields of central Kerala, stronghold of the Christian community, must be living in a fool's paradise, not in God's own country.

It will be advisable for Shah to listen to SNDP general secretary Vellappally Natesan, who made NDA a reality in Kerala through his brand of politics. "There are much bigger Shahs in Kerala BJP," Natesan, known for his acerbic tongue, had remarked.

Now with no "ruling benefits" coming from BJP and time running out, Natesan has threatened to walk out of the NDA with his political outfit, the BDJS.

The majority of the 15 per cent vote share that the NDA bagged in the last Assembly elections had belonged to the BDJS and other fringe parties who are part of the alliance.

For now, the fate of the "Janaraksha Yatra" hangs fire, so do the BJP's fortunes in Kerala.

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