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Disastrous Political Engineering : Pre-Election Strategy of BJP in Kerala

Jacob Peenikaparambil Jacob Peenikaparambil
01 Mar 2021

If the news about the Metro Man E Sreedharan joining BJP was a surprise to many Indians, the views expressed by him in an interview with NDTV are shocking to his admirers. In a state, where meat is consumed by a large majority of people irrespective of their religious affiliation, his statement is repugnant and arrogant. "Personally, I am a very strict vegetarian. I don't even eat eggs, so, certainly I don't like anybody eating meat."

He has endorsed the conjecture of the Sangh Parivar extremists that “love jihad” is a great threat.  "I see what is happening in Kerala. How Hindus are being tricked in a marriage and how they suffer... not only Hindus, the Christian girls are being tricked in a marriage. Now that sort of thing I certainly will oppose."

E Sreedharan strongly defended the view that the BJP is not a communal party, but a party of nationalists. “It is a party consisting of nation lovers and who accept that all parties, all communities are alike as far as they're concerned. That is the attitude of the Modi government. I can see the way he [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] speaks; I have never seen him at any time attacking any religion”. One wonders how a person, whom many Indians admired as a man of integrity, can speak like this.  

Persuading or pressurizing celebrities, persons with popularity, and politicians from opposition parties to join the BJP has been a strategy adopted by the party ever since it came to power at the Centre in 2014. It is part of the technique called, ‘political engineering’. The crux of ‘political engineering’ is creating prejudice, suspicion and enmity between communities in view of polarizing votes in favour of the BJP. According to some political analysts, the BJP has been experimenting with ‘political engineering’ in Kerala since 2015.  

Many signals coming from Kerala politics indicate that the BJP is assiduously wooing the Christian communities in Kerala through a process of social or political engineering. Social engineering is a term invented by an RSS ideologue Govindacharya for tilting the political allegiance of certain communities towards the BJP. Ever since Bharatiya Jan Sangh was reborn as Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980, it has adopted various strategies in different states to increase its political footprint. Political engineering has been a strategy used everywhere. 

J. S. Adoor, KPCC Public Policy Chairman, has written an article in Malayalam, in  Facebook under the title, “Discern the Political Engineering in Kerala” in which he has explained succinctly how the BJP is implementing the strategy of political engineering in Kerala through a technique called “Micro Target Messaging”. “It is a technique by which polarization is done through the creation of mutual suspicion and prejudice by means of some local issues among the people belonging to different religions and castes living in harmony in a particular area”. BJP experimented with this technique successfully in Gujarat and later in UP from 2012 onwards. 

In UP, the vote base of Samajwadi Party was a combination of backward castes, especially Yadavs and the Muslims. The technique used by the BJP was creating suspicion and enmity between the Yadavs and the Muslims by making use of a local issue. For example, if a Yadav boy falls in love with a Muslim girl, first rumours are spread among the Muslims through WhatsApp messages and SMS from the fake IDs created for this purpose that Yadavs are hijacking Muslims girls and making them Hindus. The same technique is adopted to create suspicion among the Yadavs by spreading messages from fake IDs that Muslim girls are seducing Yadav boys. Through continuous fake messaging suspicion and prejudice between two communities are created at the micro level and then it is spread to macro level to polarize votes. According to the article of J S Adoor, the BJP employed a team of 500 persons for two years in UP for this purpose.  

The narratives used in Gujarat was business, beef and terrorism and in UP the narratives were beef and love jihad to create hatred against Muslims and thus to polarize the Hindu votes. SMS and WhatsApp messages were used profusely for this purpose. 

As per the article of J S Adoor, BJP started using the technique of love jihad in Kerala from 2015 and it was targeted among the Christians. In Kerala, a two pronged approach is adopted. First, create rift between Christians and Muslims through the use of many fake IDs of Christians and Muslims. The main purpose is to destroy the United Democratic Front (UDF) by alienating Christians from it. Second, attract the Ezhavas from the LDF and the UDF to the BJP in view of wiping out the left and weakening the UDF. 

Five issues are being used in Kerala to create enmity towards Muslims among the Christians: 1) love jihad 2) religious terrorism 3) ISI kidnapping Christian girls for terrorist activities 4) increase in Muslim population and 5) Halal food campaign. 

The strategy of creating rift between Muslims and Christians has succeeded to some extent and the proof is some bishops and selected priests have started speaking against love jihad. A recent statement by a spokesperson of KCBC against Chandy Ooman, a Congress leader, is perceived by political observers as the result of the “Micro Target Messaging” strategy of the BJP.  The Christian community leaders in Kerala have to remember what Jesus told his disciples more than 2000 years ago, “be innocent as doves and shrewd as serpents”.  Otherwise they can be easily trapped. 

Christians will be able to survive and progress in India only as long as India remains a pluralistic or secular country. Hence the leaders of Christian Churches should be shrewd enough not to be trapped by the communal forces. They should not support any ideology or party that does not respect the constitution of India and does not ensure the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. Their safety, security and progress is not in the empty promises given by political parties, but in India remaining a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic, ensuring justice, equality, liberty and fraternity that ensures dignity of the individuals. 
 The strategy adopted by the BJP will be disastrous for the people of Kerala. Kerala stands out among all the states of India in terms of human development. Irrespective of the coalitions that ruled Kerala, the state has followed a development model focusing on education, health care, high life expectancy, low birth rate and devolution of powers to the local self governments. Kerala was adjudged the best governed state in India the fifth time on 30 October 2020 by the Bangalore based not-for- profit organization, Public Affairs Centre (PAC), headed by former Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman K Kasturirangan. The BJP ruled Uttar Pradesh remained at the bottom of the large states category.  

The PAC report does not say the reasons for Kerala topping in governance, but gives a hint when it mentions that “governance and overall development can be ushered in only if there is social revolution first”. Various reasons could be cited for the excellent performance of Kerala in terms of governance. The most important among them are the social reformations that have taken place in Kerala. The movements under the leadership of Ayyankali, K. Kelappan, Sree Narayana Guru, A K Gopalan and EMS Namboothiripad had brought drastic changes in the social, economic and political structure of Kerala society.
The second reason for good governance is high political awareness among the people. Kerala is the most literate state in India with 93.97% literacy rate in 2011. The higher level of literacy and education has contributed to increased political awareness among the people of Kerala. The political parties irrespective of their ideology are aware of the political acumen of the people and respond to the needs of the people. People cannot be easily carried away by emotive issues. One can climb the political ladder only through hard work and by proving his/her competence and commitment. The change of government every five years points to the fact that people of Kerala cannot be taken for granted by the political parties. People in General are not indifferent to issues, but they respond to the issues and try to make the governments accountable both at the state level and the local level. 

The third reason could be relative communal harmony in Kerala in comparison to many other states in India, although the fundamentalist elements in all religions in Kerala have created cracks in the edifice of communal harmony during the last one decade. Majoritarian communalism could not make a serious dent into the relationship among the followers of different religions, as Muslims and Christians constitute about 46% of Kerala population (Muslims- 26.56% and Christians- 18.38%). 

Because of the above mentioned reasons Kerala has remained a socially progressive and liberal state and it has contributed to make the state number one in governance. Political and religious leaders of the state have a great responsibility to safeguard this precious asset. Prejudice and hatred among the followers of different religions can easily destroy this great asset of Kerala. People of Kerala also have to be alert and vigilant so that self centred and narrow minded leaders do not destroy this priceless asset by playing on the religious sentiments of the people. Religion is highly explosive and people of Kerala should not allow the political leaders to explode it. Leaders who are communal in their ideology and policies are to be rejected out rightly. 

Those Keralites who have lived in the north and central India can easily appreciate and value the richness of the liberal and progressive culture of Kerala and their intense desire is that people of Kerala should not lose it at any cost. The best shield to protect Kerala from “political engineering” is to promote the specialities of Kerala like spirit of social reformation, increased political awareness, critical thinking, and harmony among the followers of different faiths.  

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