BJP's ambitious Jana Raksha Yatra failed in Kerala. Here's why
When Amit Shah launched the Jana Raksha Yatra on 3 October from the communist bastion of Kannur, this tragic fall of the entire gamut is not what he had expected.
The yatra, which mainly focused on protesting against CPI(M)-led violence in Kerala in effect, exposed BJP-led violence nationally. In the first few days of the 500-kilometre yatra, though local media questioned BJP over their role in these political killing, the national media were not much aware of politics in Kerala as it is least reported in the national level.
The beginning of the yatra was as colourful as it was rescheduled four times due to the lack of coordination between state and central leadership. The initial plan of the state leadership was to launch the Jan Raksha Yatra on 27 August. However, as per the advice received from the central leadership, state BJP rescheduled the yatra to 7 September, which failed to take off due to lack of preparation.
This was the first blow to the yatra. Much before the commencement of the yatra, the incapability of the state leadership in conducting the event hit the headlines. The fate of the yatra was decided from then on.
When finally the yatra was flagged off by Amit Shah, the party workers were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the programme schedule, which included a padyatra by Amit Shah through Pinarayi, the birthplace of the Communist party in Kerala and also the native place of Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala.
Though the yatra got an initial push in the media, it got blacked-out when the eyeballs shifted to the release of a Malayalam superstar from police custody. The actor was in jail for sexually assaulting a South Indian actress.
The vernacular media was busy covering the superstar's bail and Amit Shah and his padyatra went unnoticed in all this.
At a time when the whole state, including the Left leadership, was waiting for the padyatra, the BJP state president seemed to have vanished into thin air. Even the local leaders and workers were left clueless about the absence of their leader.
The state leadership is still finding it difficult to convince the cadres and the general public about Amit Shah's mysterious absence. Though the party did come up with a meagre alibi of the prime minister calling Shah back for an immediate meeting, it failed to heal the damage his absence had caused to the confidence of the cadres, who were already despondent because of myriad issues that have happened in the recent past.
But, only a few days later, when The Wire brought out a story on Jay Shah, people could relate to why Amit Shah disappeared from the much-hyped Jana Raksha Yatra citing a meeting with the PM.
The conspiracy theory that Amit Shah left for Delhi just to block the feature story caused further damage to the yatra.
The timing of the yatra itself was questioned by the Left and the Congress as the BJP organised the yatra just when they had lost face in the medical college scam. The scam allegedly brought up names of some prominent leaders.
To spice up matters, the scam was brought out by Asianet News which was owned by BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar who co-owns the allegedly pro-BJP Republic TV. So to say, this was one of the allegations propped up against the state leadership. A chain of allegations and ill-doings, including printing fake banknotes by local leaders, surfaced just before the yatra.
Though the yatra had a handful of celebrity leaders, Smriti Irani and the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Goa in attendance and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, the new poster boy of Sangh Parivar, were the most attractive faces.
But when Yogi Adityanath suggested that Kerala should learn from Uttar Pradesh when it comes to running hospitals, enraged Malayalis hit out on social media with the hashtag #KnappanYogi. They also went t the extents of launching scathing attacks against UP saying that their homes lacked even the basic sanitary infrastructure.
This backlash comes in the wake of the death of more than 60 children in UP's BRD Hospital in Gorakhpur. The children died due to the lack of oxygen supply.
On the other hand, the irony is that the BJP is quite happy about the yatra. According to them, after Gauri Lankesh's murder, it was the Left that lead the brutal attack against right-wing fascism in India.
By putting the focus on the violence being perpetrated by the Left in Kerala, they think that they can counter the attack of Left intellectuals at a national level. And it was for this purpose that the BJP announced the nation-wide yatra across India in places the CPI(M) had strongholds.
But in a private conversation, BJP has admitted that state leaders have failed miserably in convincing local people about the slogan they raised in the yatra.
The other agenda in the yatra, Jihadi terror, helped the CPI(M) more than the BJP and it was evident in the recent results of the Vengara by-election. Vengara is a huge minority-dominant constituency and is the stronghold of the Indian Union Muslim League where CPI(M) has actually managed to increase the vote share, and BJP failed.
The state-wide march by BJP finally came to an end in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, where Amit Shah tried to bring up the development agenda which went unnoticed.
So why did the yatra actually fail?
BJP's central leadership has committed grave mistakes in understanding the mindset of Kerala.
The fact is that Kerala is not in the least ready to receive the hardcore Yogi Adityanath-style of politics. They are most likely to reject it and react to it with all their might – just as it has happened in the Jana Raksha Yatra.
During the 2016 Assembly election, BJP managed to get a vote share of 14.8% and opened its account for the first time in Kerala by raising development as the main slogan and promising to expose the alleged adjustment politics by Congresses-led UDF and CPI(M)-led LDF fronts.
A sudden change from it to the typical Hindu identity politics will tamper the future of BJP in Kerala as both UDF and LDF will extensively attack the party for their communal agenda.
As a state which has a large minority vote bank, Kerala needs a more tactical approach and, BJP is yet to identify the winning mantra to impress the minority communities and win the upcoming elections.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen