National

Janaraksha Yatra did not quite save BJP the blushes in Kerala

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on January 08, 2018

Shah back in Kerala to join yatra on concluding day today

The Vengara Assembly bypoll, which turned out to be a disastrous outing for the BJP’s Kerala unit, is the immediate backdrop against which the party’s chief Amit Shah rejoins the Janaraksha Yatra, from which he broke away a fortnight ago on an “urgent call” from Delhi.

The yatra had begun in a flourish from Kerala’s northern-most district and is scheduled to end in its southern-most, the State Capital of Thiruvananthapuram, with a rally and public meeting in which at least 50,000 party workers and sympathisers will take part.

The Vengara elections apart, the yatra has had to contend with a number of intervening issues as it snaked its way to the south, risking attention and publicity deficit except when Central leaders of the likes of Smriti Irani called in to join.

Vengara, a pocketborough of the Indian Union Muslim League, a constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, has been a seat the rival candidates of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the BJP were fighting to lose.

In the end, the League candidate won, albeit with a reduced margin, and the LDF candidate polled more votes than ever. The BJP ended up a poor fourth, behind the hardline Muslim outfit SDPI.

Shah had reportedly wanted the State unit to ensure that the party polls at least 10,000 votes, but Vengara yielded only half as much. This too after the yatra was specifically diverted to pass through Vengara in the run-up to the polls.

It is widely believed that the BJP’s harping relentlessly on ‘jihadi terror and red horror’ misfired badly, leading to the consolidation of minority votes. A good number could have swung the LDF way while still lesser numbers, to the Muslim League.

It is also likely that the shrill BJP campaign could have led some of the young and impressionable votes to the SDPI. The fringe party was able to double the number of votes polled this time round.

Two other developments that robbed the sheen of the yatra was an unexpected pat for Kerala from President Ramnath Kovind for its tradition of communal harmony, something the BJP would have wished did not happen.

The other was the State government ordering the anointment of non-Brahmin priests at temples in a path-breaking initiative. This had elicited welcome tweets from Tamil Nadu from DMK leader MK Stalin and actor Kamal Haasan.

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Published on October 16, 2017
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