Is Kerala the next laboratory for BJP to try out ‘Operation Kamala’?

Our Bureau. Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on April 06, 2021

K Surendran

Will it be the suitably ‘muddy’ but untested terrain of Kerala that the BJP may choose to enact ‘Operation Kamala’, which it has carried out with clinical precision in Puducherry after blazing a trail in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur and Karnataka and ultimately forming governments in those States?

Observers here have been debating this possibility after the President of the State unit of the party, K Surendran, went on record more than once saying that the party would rule ‘if it manages to get 35 to 40 seats’ in the 140-member Assembly’, where a contender party/front needs 71 seats to form a government on its own.

Surendran tries to reason out what many describe as an ‘exaggerated’ or ‘outlandish’ claim by pointing to the presence of dissatisfied leaders in the outgoing government led by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) as well as the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) waiting for a reason to jump ship.

He said that these leaders would help his cause of forming a government despite the party likely running short by half as many seats needed for a simple majority. The observers are at a loss to explain what gives him the confidence that the one-member-strong party would grow this to even this minimum number (35+).

What lends that wee bit of credence to Surendran’s claim though is the near consensus among those watching the electoral history of the State that one more term out of power could be an inflexion point, ‘when the faction-ridden Congress party as we know it could likely implode under the weight of its own contradictions’.

Even if the BJP fails to manage the magic number this time, it says it would do it positively the next time (2026) by when the CPI(M)-led LDF and its ‘outdated’ coalition would come apart, spectacularly due to internal struggle for leadership, since there is no evidence yet of a credible succession line after incumbent Pinarayi Vijayan.

And they point to the frequent visits and sustained presence in the State of ‘those who matter’ in the BJP’s central leadership, led by Kerala Prabhari CP Radhakrishnan, who pitched a tent for as many as 45 days in the State. Some others boasted a successful track record of supervising ‘Operation Kamala’ in other States.

Hopes to win many seats

The State leadership is hopeful of bagging a number of seats, including Nemom (Kummanam Rajasekharan); Vattiyoorkav, Thiruvananthapuram, Kattakkada, Kazhakkottam (Sobha Surendran); Chathannoor, Chengannur, Konni and Manjeswar (K Surendran); Thrissur (Suresh Gopi); and Malampuzha and Palakkad (E Sreedharan), with the party President hoping to with both seats he is contesting from.

Rousing reception to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Palakkad, Konni and Thiruvananthapuram has thrilled the party leadership. Road shows of Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, Railways Minister Piyush Goel and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, too, have attracted good numbers.

Statement invites disdain

Meanwhile, the BJP President’s statement expressing confidence in cobbling up the required number with likely many fewer on hand has already invited criticism. This will only drag Kerala only to a cesspool of electoral politics marked by horse-trading funded by corporate money, the LDF leadership has said.

Mullappally Ramachandran, President of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, publicly aired the view that many of what he called ‘known wheeler-dealers’ of the party have been doing their rounds in the State, whose intent and mission are now clear in the context of the party president’s exalted claim.

Published on April 05, 2021

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