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Counting Stars: BJP bets on Suresh Gopi to garner Nair support in Kerala

P Venugopal | Updated on: 25 April 2016, 16:14 IST

Action hero Suresh Gopi's nomination to the Rajya Sabha is clearly part of Bharatiya Janata Party's larger strategy to gain a foothold in Kerala, where the party is yet to win an Assembly or a Lok Sabha seat.

His nomination by the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre comes just as the campaign for the 16 May Assembly elections begins to heat up in the State.

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Suresh Gopi, 56, has been the "angry young man" of Malayalam films. In the most successful of his 200-odd movies, he's repeatedly taken on the roles of police officer, anti-terrorist commando and journalist fighting against evils such as political corruption, terrorism and so on.

Outside of movies, he also has the image of a large-hearted human being who readily associates himself with humanitarian activities, visiting orphanages, old-age homes and institutions, taking care of differently-abled children and lending his assistance for raising funds for their functioning.

But it's slowly been clear over the last few years that he has political ambitions as well; or at  least a streak of political activism. He had suo motu campaigned in the 2011 Assembly elections for CPI(M) leader VS Achuthanandan in Malampuzha constituency.

During the campaign meetings then, he had said that he was campaigning for the CPI(M) veteran not because of politics, but due to his admiration for Achuthanandan 's  "uncompromising fight against corruption" as the chief minister of the State.

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His affinity towards the BJP seems to have begun just before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections after meeting Narendra Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat. Since then he has been vocal in his admiration for Modi, who, it has now become clear, has big plans for the movie star.

Suresh Gopi has a well-defined role to play for the BJP in Kerala. He belongs to the Nair community, the largest upper caste Hindu community in the State. 

BJP has a clear political strategy in mind by nominating Suresh Gopi to the RS

The BJP leadership's efforts to woo the political support of the powerful social organisation of the community, the Nair Service Society (NSS), has always met with a stout rebuff. The NSS leadership has been pursuing a "policy of equidistance" towards both the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) for the last three decades. They did not want to change it for the sake of the BJP.

In June 2015 Suresh Gopi, who had by that time given ample evidence of his newfound political loyalties, went to the NSS headquarters when the society's annual budget session was going on under full media attention, inviting the ire of the NSS supremo G. Sukumaran Nair.  

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"You should not have done this. I do not like this," Mr. Nair openly told Suresh Gopi. And, while responding to questions during the budget presentation, he said he would not allow anyone to make a political killing at the cost of the NSS.

This incident notwithstanding, the BJP perceives Suresh Gopi as a possible bridge between the party and the NSS, or at least the voters belonging to this community. He is already campaigning for the BJP and will be on the podium as a Rajya Sabha member when the Prime Minister addresses election meetings in Kerala in the second week of May.

"Barkis is willing"-this is the message the BJP leadership wants to convey to the Nair community through the superstar's nomination to the upper house of Parliament.

Edited by Anna Verghese

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First published: 25 April 2016, 16:14 IST