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Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the famous Guruvayur temple in Thrissur district on a previous visit to Kerala Image Credit: PTI

India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a political expiry date, which it enforces on its leaders. The moment you cross 75 years you are deemed unfit for politics and sent to the Margdarshak mandal (currently inhabited by L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi).

The mandal was dreamt up by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah but some expectations are allowed. For example B S Yediyurappa 76, current CM of Karnataka, and now E Sreedharan, 88, yes read that again 88. Sreedharan was earlier called the 'Metro Man' and is now the BJP’s main man and face in Kerala.

Post his hasty joining the BJP once the Kerala elections were announced, Sreedharan made a series of gaffes. Sreedharan publicly said he believed that “love jihad” was being waged, announced himself as the BJP’s CM face in Kerala and also added for good measure “that after he joined the BJP, the BJP’s image has completely changed”.

Sreedharan after freely endorsing the BJP’s favourite issues “beef ban”, “love jihad” and criminals in politics, now gets annoyed and calls them “negative questions” and threatens walkouts from media interviews.

A hard nut to crack

Kerala is the hardest nut to crack politically for the BJP. The beef ban, which it has imposed across India, has no takers in Kerala. In reality, BJP dials down all its contentious issues when in the South of India. Yet it still has to crack the electoral code and make an impact in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Rahul Gandhi, former Congress chief, sussed on to the potential damage to the image of the BJP with its electoral no shows and this time around Gandhi, the MP for Wayanad in Kerala, has been extensively campaigning in Kerala and Tamil Nadu where the Gandhi’s scion’s image has not been battered by the infamous IT cell and its “Pappu” branding of him.

The LDF incumbent government in Kerala is also giving it back to the BJP which has used its steadfast allies the central agencies — Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Income tax to lodge cases against the Pinarayi Vijayan government in the gold smuggling case. The left government has initiated a judicial inquiry against the ED probe.

Cult of Vijayan

The cult of Vijayan is also growing in Kerala which is anathema to the left. Vijayan’s pictures are ubiquitous across Kerala yet the CM is circumspect saying only the legislature party will decide post the elections who will be the CM if the left wins.

The CPM and the Congress are in a fierce fight in Kerala and allies outside it even in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Clearly this is something that makes Vijayan squirm as he said in an interview to a daily that the alliance outside Kerala was to stop the communal forces.

The BJP calls this the secular hypocrisy when enemies get together to target it. Amit Shah, the chief political strategist of the BJP, has set the party a new goal “mission South”

where he wants the BJP to become a player. Says a senior BJP leader “people laughed at Shah went he said “mission West Bengal. He used to go to West Bengal different constituencies every week. We got 19 seats and are now the chief opposition. Laugh at us now but, soon we will be the kingmakers in the South and eventually the king.”

The fact that despite, having virtually no stakes in Kerala, the BJP is getting senior leaders like defence minister Rajnath Singh to address public meetings in Thiruvantapuram as he did yesterday is being noticed.

Modi is addressing an election rally in Kerala today. So the toolkit of the BJP for the South is ready. It will be implemented even if Sreedharan does not get the CM’s job he has been dreaming about.