The BJP, which sends its veteran leaders over 75 years of age to the Margdarshak Mandal, chose to onboard Sreedharan despite him being 88.
“BJP will either come to power or be the kingmaker in Kerala”, affirmed ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan who officially joined the saffron camp on February 26. Though every party claims to win the election it contests, Sreedharan’s claim appears a distant dream for the BJP in a state where the party has barely (except one seat) any representation in the 140-member assembly. Even BJP president JP Nadda has stopped short of claiming a victory in Kerala during a recent interview with the India Today news channel.
E Sreedharan will turn 90 in the next two years and decided to take the political plunge with a party that has neither been relevant traditionally nor is it in the picture this election as far as opinion polls are concerned. The saffron camp, which sends its veteran leaders over 75 years of age to the Margdarshak Mandal, chose to onboard Sreedharan despite him being 88. Sreedharan joined the saffron camp around a month ago, and believes that the BJP will touch at least 40 seats, contrary to the opinion polls. The NDA secured a 6.3 per cent voter share in 2011 and nearly 16 per cent in 2016, around a ten per cent increase. In the 2014 Lok Sabha Election, the NDA had bagged 10.85 per cent of the votes while it got 15.20 per cent in 2019. Of this 15.2 per cent, the BJP accounted for 12.93 per cent of the votes.
However, most of these gains are limited to certain districts and seats, making it difficult for the BJP to translate this increase in vote share into winnability. Though the BJP further wants to consolidate its vote share among Kerala’s Hindus, Sreedharan’s entry may appeal to certain segments of urban voters but not to the masses who have been voting for the LDF and UDF alternatively for years. Sreedharan hopes that his image as a devoted technocrat with impeccable honesty and integrity would help the BJP.
Another impediment in the BJP’s rise in Kerala is its Muslim and Christian votes. Muslims in Kerala constitute around 27 per cent of Kerala’s population while Christians form 18 per cent. They are the deciding factors in the Kerala election. But the BJP is trying hard to woo the Christian voters in the state. Recently, PM Narendra Modi used biblical references to woo the voters when he invoked Judas and ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ remarks to counter the LDF and UDF. Moreover, Sreedharan alone cannot help the BJP sail through Kerala’s complicated politics. Barring few exceptions, celebrity status and personal charisma have failed to help candidates win elections in Kerala. Though E Sreedharan may get more votes in the Palakkad constituency from where he is contesting the polls, the BJP benefitting from his charisma in other seats is very uncertain.
While E Sreedharan’s entry may have given a slight boost to the saffron camp in the ‘God’s own country’, whether it will bear any fruits for the party or not, can be said only on May 2.