By: P. Sreekumaran
Clear evidence of the tacit deal between the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP in Kerala has surfaced to the acute embarrassment of both the parties. What is even more surprising is that a few top BJP leaders themselves have spilled the beans.
First to come out with a ‘candid confession’ about the Congress-BJP deal was none other than the senior-most BJP leader in Kerala and the lone BJP MLA in the outgoing Kerala Assembly, O. Rajagopal. The nonagenarian leader openly admitted that he won from the Nemom constituency not merely on the strength of BJP votes. His victory was facilitated because he had succeeded in getting Congress votes as well besides a large number of ‘personal’ votes. Rajagopal is also on record that BJP candidate in Nemom, Kummanam Rajasekharan may not get the kind of personal votes which he had secured. Rajagopal embarrassed the BJP further by justifying such local understanding between the BJP and the Congress Not only that. The veteran leader from Kerala said such understandings were acceptable, and that more such adjustments needed to be made because such deals benefited the BJP in a big way, as in the case of Nemom! Since the Congress has fielded a powerful candidate, K. Muraleedharan, this time, Kummanam is highly unlikely to get the Congress votes which Rajagopal managed to bag in 2016 assembly elections. And that possibility is giving the BJP leaders sleepless nights.
Close on the heels of Rajagopal’s ‘confession’ came the open admission by another senior BJP leader and former BJP state president, C K. Padmanabhan of the Congress-BJP pact. The infamous Co-Le-BJP alliance (acronym for the Congress-League-BJP) pact of the 1990s happened in 2001 too, admitted Padmanabhan. The discussions on the pact took place in Kasaragod and he was one of the three leaders who represented the BJP in the talks. Indian Union Muslim League strongman P K. Kunhalikutty and Kerala Congress(M) president K. M. Mani attended the talks on behalf of the UDF, Padmanabhan revealed.
Likewise, BJP candidate in Thrissur, Suresh Gopi, gave the game away by openly expressing his desire that KNA Khader of the IUML must win in Guruvayoor. Gopi’s statement came after the nomination papers of BJP candidates in Guruvayoor and Thalassery, BJP state Mahila Morcha chief Nivedita Subramanian and BJP Kannur district president, N. Haridas respectively, were rejected on technical grounds, causing huge embarrassment to the saffron camp. It may be mentioned that Thalassery is a constituency where the BJP has a sizable presence. In the 2016 assembly polls, BJP candidate V. K. Sajeevan had polled 22, 125 votes. Gopi also opined that CPI(M) candidate in Thalassery, A. N. Shamseer should not win by any chance. Shamseer himself scorned the BJP-CPI(M) talk by saying that the CPI(M) was capable of winning on the strength of its own vote base. Under no circumstances would the CPI(M) accept BJP-RSS votes, thundered Shamseer.
BJP suffered further embarrassment when Independent candidate in Thalassery, COT Nazeer refused the support of the BJP. Thus, in Thalassery, the BJP is left with no option but to appeal to its cadres to go for a ‘conscience vote’ – a euphemism for transferring BJP votes to the Congress. Although BJP leaders mildly rebuked Suresh Gopi for his remarks, they do admit in private that a big slice of the BJP votes would now go to the Congress candidate in Thalaseery, M. P. Aravindakshan. Red-faced BJP leaders, including BJP state chief K. Surendran, were furious over the volte-face by Nazeer. It was unfair on Nazeer’s part to have first sought the BJP’s support and then rejected it under ‘pressure’ from the CPI(M), they lamented. Nazeer, incidentally, is a former CPI(M) activist. The whole episode has left the State BJP leaders with egg on their faces, and caused utter confusion among the party cadres, besides incurring the wrath of the central BJP leadership. On his part, IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty said party candidate in Guruvatoor KNA Khader did not need the support of the BJP to win in Guruvayoor as he is quite popular in the constituency.
It is clear as daylight that the rejection of the nomination papers of BJP candidates in Thalassery and Guruvayoor was a drama played by the BJP to help the Congress. CPI(M) leaders claim that it is hard to believe that the nominations were rejected on technical grounds. According to OK Vasu, former BJP district chief who joined the CPI(M) in 2014, said he himself was a candidate of the party in the past. He said they used to take extra care while filing papers. The understanding, Vasu added, was to transfer BJP votes to the Congress candidate. But the CPI(M) would win despite the drama, Vasu averred. The results would expose the BJP’s game, he added.
As if all this was not enough, BJP’s firebrand woman leader, Sobha Surendran, also admitted to a BJP-Congress understanding. Sobha, who is the BJP candidate in Kazhakoottam constituency in Thiruvananthapuram district, said she herself had worked for such a tacit understanding with Congress in her constituency. It may be mentioned that Sobha is among the few BJP candidates for whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself campaigned. In fact, Sobha got the ticket because of the direct intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) as the BJP state leadership was strongly opposed to her candidature. The state leadership wanted senior party leader and Union Minister V. Muraleedharan to contest from Kazhakoottam. But as the PM insisted, the state leadership had no option but to give Sobha the ticket. Sobha also hinted at the distinct possibility of more Congress leaders joining the BJP after the elections. This was yet another piece of evidence of the BJP-Congress deal in the Assembly elections.
More evidence of the BJP-Congress deal are tumbling out from many other constituencies as well. For instance, in Vattiyurkavu, where VK Prashanth, former Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram is the CPI(M) candidate, there are clear signs of a deal between the BJP and the Congress. Again, in Tripunithura, Congress candidate K Babu, a staunch Oommen Chandy loyalist who lost to CPI(M)’s M. Swaraj in the 2016 assembly elections, is in the fray again. Babu is openly claiming that this time around, he would get the BJP votes which had lost in 2016. That is another proof of the Congress-BJP tacit understanding, according to CPI(M) leaders.
Last but not the least, those who talk of a BJP-CPI(M) pact are skating on thin ice. There is simply no scope for a pact between BJP and CPI(M), in the ‘killing fields’ of Malabar, where they are bitter rivals. Nobody who knows about the bitter rivalry between the CPI(M) and the BJP-RSS combine in North Malabar constituencies including Thalassery would believe that there can be an understanding between BJP and CPI(M). Their rivalry can be traced to the riots that shook Thalassery in the 1990s. For BJP cadres too, a deal with the CPI(M) is unthinkable. They had established the party by fighting against the CPI(M). This being the chilling reality, there are few takers for a BJP-CPI(M) deal or understanding for the assembly elections. That is why RSS ideologue R. Balashankar’s allegations about a BJP-CPI(M) pact has not made any appreciable impact at all , especially in the Malabar region. (IPA Service)