BJP to begin poll campaign in Kerala on a high

Thiruvananthapuram, March 5 (IANS) Encouraged by recent electoral successes in Kerala and hoping to gain from partnering with the recently-floated Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, the BJP is launching its election campaign in the state on an upbeat note.

“We will not just open our account in the assembly, we are going to win at least 71 seats,” Kummanem Rajashekeran, the newly-appointed president of the state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told reporters here.

The state is scheduled to vote on May 16 to elect a new 140-member legislative assembly. The rightist BJP hopes to make its assembly-entry in the state which gave India its first Left government in 1957.

The state BJP unit has reportedly already compiled a list of 100 candidates, which indicates that the party could be contesting all or most of the 140 seats.

Power in Kerala has alternated between the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by the Congress and the Left Democratic Front led by the CPI-M.

The BJP’s hopes have been boosted by a number of electoral successes. The party doubled the total number of seats in the last year’s local body polls as compared to its performance in 2010 polls.

It won about 1,100 of the 21,871 seats across the three-tier local body structure in the state. The party’s vote share touched 14 percent.

BJP is now the main opposition in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, beating the traditional opposition Congress party to third place.

The party also shocked Congress and CPI-M in the Palakkad municipality, winning 24 seats to become the single largest party there. The BJP earlier had 15 seats in that municipality.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, for the first time, BJP’s vote share touched double-digit — at 10.83 percent, up from 6.03 per cent in the 2011 assembly polls.

In the 2011 assembly polls, the BJP had contested 139 of the 140 seats, finishing runners up in three assembly constituencies with each of the three candidates getting more than 40,000 votes. In the rest of the constituencies, the party had finished third with poor vote counts.

In the upcoming assembly elections, the BJP has decided to field all its top leaders, including 86-year-old former union minister of state O. Rajagopal.

“I have decided to contest again as I do not want our opponents to go around saying that I have been replaced in the Nemom constituency,” said Rajagopal.

He had finished second in Nemom in the 2011 assembly polls. Rajagopal had also contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency, finishing second.

The BJP also hopes to gain from its alliance with the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) — the political party launched in December 2015 by the powerful Hindu Ezhava leader Vellapally Natesan.

The Ezhava community has a significant presence in Kerala.

Vellappally is the general secretary of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, which is guided by the teachings of social reformer Sree Narayana Guru.

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