The tumultuous reception accorded to the NDA candidates - former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan, BJP state general secretary K Surendran and actor Suresh Gopi - in their respective Thruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur Lok Sabha seats has fired up the BJP rank and file. In a wide-ranging chat with The New Indian Express’ Special Correspondent MANOJ VISWANATHAN, BJP national executive member and party’s former state chief V Muralidharan MP is pretty upbeat on the party extending its reach beyond the traditional vote bank, garnering the support of a section of Christian voters in the coming elections.
Q. The BJP brass is quite upbeat on the party winning many seats in Kerala. But will the minorities’
apprehensions prove a dampener for the party?
A. Indeed, there is apprehension among the Muslim community due to various reasons. But we expect a positive change in the Christian community’s attitude this time. However, we don’t want to label the minorities as anti-BJP.
Q. What makes you think the Christian community will indeed back the BJP?
A.There are virtually no issues between the BJP and the Christian community. Ideology-wise also, we are on the same page. The community has responded positively to the feelers sent out by the BJP and its national chief Amit Shah called on Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis, besides holding talks with Church leaders, including Cardinal George Alenchery. The community’s demands have always evinced a positive reaction from the Centre.
Q. But there has been no attempt on the BJP’s part to dispel Muslims’ deep apprehensions.
A. Let me make this quite clear - there is a difference between the Muslim and Christian community. The BJP has taken a strong stand against terrorism and the Christian community, which is the victim of global terror, shares our concern.
And no leader, political or spiritual, belonging to the Christian community has ever backed terror merchants. On the other hand, though Muslims do not support terrorism en masse, there is a section of spiritual leaders and politicians belonging to the community who encourage extremists. The Muslim League (IUML) in Kerala has been covertly encouraging terror merchants.
Q. BJP leaders have claimed the party has come up as an alternative in Kerala’s hitherto bipolar politics. Which are the factors that helped the party
improve its political footprint?
A.The people are fed up with the two fronts. The BJP -NDA’s performance at the Centre in the last five years has proved it can indeed run a stable government. Despite the Opposition campaign, the BJP has been able to infuse confidence among people it can ensure corruption-free governance along with development. We have pinned hopes on neutral voters this time.
Q. Will the Sabarimala issue weigh in on voters?
A.The BJP alone stood by the devotees on the issue - spearheading the protest demanding continuation of the age-old practices and customs at the hill shrine - which drew several persons to the party fold. In stark contrast, the LDF Government sought to miuse the SC order to undermine the customs, with the Congress adopting a contradictory stance on the issue.