In the recent civic elections, in which the CPM-led LDF eventually made major gains in Muslim areas, it had campaigned by sending out this very message and stressing that only Communists could counter the “threat” posed by the BJP. Now the Congress has taken up the discourse at a time when the polls have been missing a rallying issue even in the last lap of electioneering.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy opened the discourse Saturday, saying the Congress is the main rival of the BJP in seats where that party is putting up a strong fight. In seats such as Manjeswar and Kasargode, Chandy said, the contest is between the Congress and the BJP, with the CPM in third position. “Hence, if the CPM wants to enter into a tie-up with the BJP, the people of Kerala are not going to allow it. The CPM’s agenda of winning minority votes will not work,” the chief minister said.
On Sunday, Congress working committee member A K Antony carried on with the theme, saying, “The BJP is a threat to the peaceful and secular life of Kerala.” Antony said all secular forces should join hands to thwart the growth of the BJP, adding that the Hindu Ezhava outfit Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam has committed a mistake by aligning with the BJP.
These statements are widely being seen as a last-minute tactic to win the minority vote over. They evoked memories of a similar statement by Chandy — “the real fight is between the Congress and the BJP” — during the run up byelections in Aruvikkara last year. The Congress, incidentally, went on to win the bypoll.
The timing of Chandy’s attack on the BJP is significant, given that his own government has come under criticism for its failure to make headway in the probe into the brutal murder of a Dalit girl. The BJP has been highlighting the murder as an example about the Congress government’s alleged lack of seriousness in addressing Dalit concerns. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has blamed the Congress for its failure to act promptly.
Both the CPM and the BJP have taken note of Chandy’s latest comments on the BJP. Marxist veteran V S Achuthanandan, leader of the Opposition in the outgoing assembly, said these comments exposed a deal between the Congress and the BJP for victory in a few seats. “The Congress may succeed in ensuring victory in a few seats. But secular people of the state will remain with the LDF. Chandy has always been adopting a soft line towards the BJP,” VS said.
BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan said Chandy’s effort was to garner anti-BJP votes, particularly of minority communities. “Both the Congress and the CPM are worried about the surges made by the BJP in the elections. Chandy’s statement has exposed the Congress’s desperate bid to win minority voters,” Rajasekharan said.