NEW DELHI: After helping the BJP make huge inroads into Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 general elections, BJP president Amit Shah is now bracing to make the saffron party’s presence felt in the traditional Left bastions of West Bengal and Kerala.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury has been desperately trying every trick in the book, including inviting ousted Somnath Chatterjee back into the Marxist fold to keep his depleting flock together. But Shah, who understands the threat of a political opponent with a strong ideological backbone, is ready with ‘Operation Red’ to erase whatever little remains of the Left in the states that were once its strongholds.
As part of ‘Operation Red’, Shah has told the BJP cadre in West Bengal and Kerala to focus their attention on attracting the CPM cadre into the saffron fold. A directive has also been issued to win over the Left cadre, who are disillusioned with the increasing factionalism in the Left parties.
“The CPM may not be a big force any more, but they are a big block before us in getting a foothold in a political state like Kerala. We have got clear directives to woo the CPM cadre. It can be through ideological debates, offers or any other means,” a senior BJP leader in Kerala said.
According to him, Shah has taken up the challenge of making inroads into Kerala, which so far has refused to give any space to the BJP. “After winning the UP challenge in the Lok Sabha elections, Kerala is next on his agenda and he sees the CPM as a big stumbling block,” said another BJP leader, who is now focusing on the Northern districts of Kerala.
Incidentally, he was formerly a CPM card-holder and one of the many BJP leaders assigned the task of luring the CPM workers into the saffron fold. He said the party had handed over the task of winning over the Left workers to the BJP leaders, who were earlier with the DYFI or the SFI. “Our previous exposure to the Communist ideology and terminology will help us to interact better with the CPM cadre as we can talk in the same language,” he said.
The main goal of ‘Operation Red’ is to woo key Left functionaries of the Branch Committees, Local Committees and Area Committees. According to the BJP leaders, defection of a local-level leader makes a greater impact than defection of a state-level leader, especially in the case of a cadre-based party.
The local-level CPM leaders, who are joining the saffron party, are being given better posts in the state BJP. Also, such defectors are readily made the active member of the party as against the norm that one needs to bring 100 members to become an active card-holder of the BJP.
And the results of ‘Operation Red’ are already showing. There have been a number of defections to the BJP, especially from CPM strongholds such as Kannur and Kasargode. As many as 200 CPM cadre joined the BJP at a function held at Neeleshwaram in Kasargodelast month. They were mainly from the CPM bastions of Madikai, Palayi, Kaithakadu and Bangalam.
Similarly, 97 members from Chala, a traditional CPM belt in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city, had defected to the BJP earlier. And it included one Chala Area Committee member and four Branch Committee members. Likewise, 350-odd CPM loyalists in the party stronghold of Kannur had joined the BJP earlier this year.
According to the BJP leaders, what is helping them is the factional feud in the state CPM.
“Even with the ascent of Yechury, there is no end to it and the CPM cadre are increasingly becoming disillusioned. For a cadre, joining a mass party like the Congress may be easier, while joining the BJP with which they were having bloody fights is a bigger challenge. And every trained cadre likes challenges,” an RSS functionary, who is active in Kannur, said explaining the psychology behind the defections.
The RSS is of the opinion that getting one CPM cadre is worth 100 Congress members as the CPM party workers are disciplined and ideologically driven.
“The Communist and the RSS ideologies may be diametrically opposite. But both instil discipline and commitment in a person and that is very important,” said the RSS functionary, who had recently shifted base from Madhya Pradesh.
The state BJP unit is planning a big event in August, which the new members would be attending. The party is planning to give ideological orientation to the newly-admitted members in that session. The venue is yet to be finalised. “Shah is likely to attend the function. We want to surprise him with the turnout,” said a state-level leader.
The move assumes significance as the state is heading for local body polls this year, with the Assembly polls due next year. The BJP vote share had gone up from 6.4 per cent to 10.8 per cent in the state in the last Lok Sabha elections and the party is trying hard to make its presence felt in the next round of elections. If that were to happen, the biggest loser, needless to say, would be the CPM as was evident in the recent bypoll in Aruvikkara constituency, where the BJP candidate
O Rajagopal put up an impressive showing even though it was the Congress’ K S Sabarinathan who emerged victorious.