A temple in the north, another in the south: one is a promise, the other quite promising. The first opened the door for the BJP to stride through the Hindu-Hindi heartland. Now the shrine of Sabarimala gives the party a gap to squeeze into a state where its standing is that of a startup selling a concept that has yet to appeal to a wider Keralan audience whose loyalty has oscillated between communists and Congress for long.
The BJP has its network in this coastal land—a robust RSS machinery, a member in the assembly. But it is beset with factionalism and an absent cohesive structure. It needed an emotive spark. The passion surrounding the temple of Ayyappa provided one. The pitch is perfect now. Sabarimala will be a front around which the battle for the state’s 20 Lok Sabha will be fought this summer. “The CPI(M) mishandled the Sabarimala issue and we will use it to our advantage. We are looking at a couple of seats,” says V. Muraleedharan, a BJP Rajya Sabha member.