This ancient port town, where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama anchored his fleet over five centuries ago, thus heralding the European colonisation of India, is decked up to receive Prime Minister Narendra Modi and host his party’s national conference that begins on September 23.

The narrow roads and ancient by-lanes of the town, which Arab, Chinese and European traders had crowded for centuries to procure the famed Malabar spices, now sport cut-outs of the BJP-RSS pantheon.

All the top brass of the BJP – around 30 Central ministers, roughly 200 MPs and close to 2,000 delegates – are expected to show up for the three-day meet. Thousands of BJP workers and Sangh Parivar foot soldiers will be cheering the leaders of the ruling party.

The town lacks the infrastructure to host such a massive event, but the BJP aims to send across a political message by holding its national meet here that it has big plans for the Malabar (North Kerala) region, the hub of which is Kozhikode. The nearby district of Kannur has been, for decades, a hotbed of violent rivalries between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Sangh Parivar.

“The Kozhikode conference is a strong warning to the communists,” a senior Kerala BJP leader told BusinessLine , referring to the recent spurt in violence between RSS and CPI (M) cadres in Kannur. The party wants the “CPI (M) attacks on the BJP” to become a national debating point.

Malabar is also home to the largest chunk of Kerala’s Muslim population. Both the communists and Muslims are chathurthi to the hardcore Sangh Parivar ideology.

Third alternative

The BJP had, during the State elections in May, been able to sew up a third front in Kerala and – for the first time – secure a seat in the Assembly.

This has boosted the party’s confidence enormously and it now wants to take the electoral performance to the next level. It dreams of winning two Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections – one of them being Kasaragod in north Malabar.

Though its bold initiative to woo the backward Ezhava caste failed to deliver the goods in the Assembly election, it is happy that its influence is growing among the urban middle class and conservative sections of Hindus. Holding a national conference with the Prime Minister in attendance in Kerala is hoped to create the ecosystem for the 2019 electoral thrust. It is also part of the ‘look south’ policy of the party.

The official explanation for the choice of Kozhikode is that it was here, back in 1968, where Deen Dayal Upadhyaya took over as the president of the Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP. On September 24, Prime Minister Modi will announce a year-long commemoration of the birth centenary of Deen Dayal, one of the top ideologues of the RSS.

Deen Dayal’s concept of ‘integral humanism’ is dear to the BJP. The meet will host an exhibition on his life and views.