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BJP chief Amit Shah honours a party worker on Sunday in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: PTI
BJP chief Amit Shah honours a party worker on Sunday in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: PTI

Win over minorities, Amit Shah tells Kerala BJP

Amit Shah gave a clear message to the Kerala unit of the BJPwin the support of minorities in order to win more seats in the 2019 general election

Ernakulam: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, winding up a three-day visit to Kerala on Sunday, gave a clear message to the state unit of the party—win the support of all non-Muslim minorities, especially Christians, and backward caste Hindus, in order to win more seats in the 2019 general election, according to people privy to the discussions.

State BJP leaders, who attended key meetings with Shah, said that he asked to focus on the reality behind getting only one seat rather than boasting about the increase in vote share for the party in the 2016 assembly election.

Kerala is crucial for BJP in its efforts to become a truly national party. The saffron juggernaut, which is on a roll in most Indian states, has not yet been able to make an electoral footprint in Kerala—one of the few states where the BJP has never won a parliamentary seat. However, the party was able to carve some success recently, arguably with the rise of Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi within the BJP. In the assembly election in May last year, BJP doubled its vote share to 16% and won its first seat.

“He has learned Kerala politics better than any state leader. Now he knows how to tackle it," said BJP state president and national executive member Sreedharan Pillai.

“We completely agree with his assessment. There is a certain untouchability regarding BJP in Kerala. That stigma should go. What it takes to win more seats in Kerala will be certainly expansion of the social base of the party to minorities," he added.

“I would say things are reaching to its root causes with his visit," said Pillai.

Kerala has a strong presence of Muslims and Christians, who together make up close to half of the state’s population, as per the 2011 census. Their vote is divided among the Congress-led United Democratic Front and Communist Party of India Marxist-led Left Democratic Front.

“The Muslim League has more or less consolidated the bulk of Muslim votes, and it may be a tough nut to crack. But he (Shah) believes the Christian votes, along with the backward caste Hindu votes, may swing in favour of the BJP," said another state BJP leader, who did not wish to be named.

On Saturday, Shah visited top Christian priests, including Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) major archbishop M. Soosa Pakiam and Syro-Malabar Church major archbishop cardinal Mar George Alencherry.

While the priests later said to reporters that politics was not a topic on the discussion table, Pillai said nobody expected to discuss politics directly.

Biju Kaimal, district president of BJP from Idukki district, where half of the population is Christian, said, “He (Shah) said we should make sure minorities and OBCs (other backward castes) are actively engaged in the party activities, even if we are not able to pursue them to join the party. He wanted us to make more use of central government ministries, like the ministry of minority affairs, to this extent," Kaimal told Mint.

Shah’s visit is part of his 110-day tour across Indian states to prepare the ground for the next national polls in 2019.

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