As voting is under way for the third and final phase of Kerala local body elections, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state chief K Surendran expressed confidence that the party will make major gains. The polls are held in four districts –Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur, and Kasaragod today. In a significant move, the BJP has also fielded 500 Christian candidates and more than 100 Muslim candidates in the fray. Speaking to Outlook, Surendran said that the minority community has reposed faith in the Central government and its development programs.
Q) It is for the first time that the BJP has fielded more than 100 Muslim candidates in the local body elections. Is it a strategy to woo the minority communities ahead of the assembly polls?
We have more than 100 Muslim candidates contesting in the polls. Another important factor is that Muslim women have come forward as candidates for the BJP. The BJP government’s passing of the Triple Talaq Bill has worked in favour of the party among Muslim women. There are many Muslim women coming forward to join BJP in North Indian states too. There is a feeling among the community that that only Prime Minister Modi can bring development. That’s the reason we have more candidates from minority communities.
Q) A Karnataka BJP minister recently sparked a row by saying that the party will not have any Muslim candidate in the election. Why did you adopt a different strategy here?
In Kerala, the situation is different.
Q) BJP has also fielded 500 Christian candidates in this election, which is unprecedented. Are you eying to make a dent in the UDF vote base - which largely comprises of the Christian community?
The BJP fielding Christian and Muslim candidates was an organic process. It was not intentional. There is widespread disquiet in the Christian community, against the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government. The Christian community is unhappy with UDF’s pact with Jamaat-e-Islami in this election. They also feel that only Modi can bring development.
Q) However, the CPM alleges that there is an electoral understanding between the BJP and the Congress in many seats. How do you react to this?
There is no pact between Congress and the BJP. On the contrary, the understanding is between the LDF and UDF. It is visible in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation and Palakkad Municipality. I never said that the BJP is keeping a few seats vacant for Congress leaders. It was a fake story from an online media group.
Q) This election is crucial for the BJP it’s a precursor to the 2021 Assembly polls. Do you think the BJP will be able to make inroads in the state?
There will be huge gains for the BJP this time. There’s a favorable atmosphere for the party in many local bodies and corporations. The CPM government is mired in corruption charges such as gold smuggling and other issues. The charges have dented the government’s image. Congress is also in the same boat. The state hasn’t implemented many central schemes effectively. However, people have benefitted from direct benefit schemes.
Q)Though the opposition is raising corruption charges, the LDF government is projecting its success stories such as the distribution of social security and welfare pensions, Covid management among others.
The Kerala government failed terribly in managing Covid. It was only a public relations work by this government. What did they spend on Covid management? The money came from the Centre. They only minted money from it. Now Covid deaths are not reported here anymore.
Q) One of your top leaders has come out against the state leadership. Do you think that the infighting in BJP will impact your prospects?
There is no dissidence in the party. I have no knowledge about rebellion in the party. The fact that there no rebels in the fray shows that the party is devoid of infighting.
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