Not Seeking Beef Ban, Hindus Suppressed Here: Kerala BJP Chief
We are not against minorities but we support suppressed groups; and in Kerala that’s the Hindus, says Muraleedharan
At a time when the BJP is trying to forge alliances and foray into Kerala ahead of next year’s Assembly polls, and with controversies surrounding beef and Hindu identity plaguing the party, here is a freewheeling interview with the state BJP chief V Muraleedharan.
In the 2016 elections, the BJP hopes to open its account in Kerala. Is that really possible?
After the Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s vote share in Kerala has doubled. In Aruvikkara by-elections though the fight was between LDF and UDF, the political significance was for BJP as its vote share increased considerably. Even LDF and UDF don’t rule out the possibility of a BJP government in the state.
Will the local polls in November 2015 be a precursor to the Assembly polls of 2016?
That can be considered, but what we see now can totally change after three or four months.
Beef Ban Politics
What is your take on beef consumption in Kerala? Why did the BJP leadership support ABVP when it opposed beef fests?
Those fests were an attempt to create an issue out of nothing. Who objected to people eating beef in Kerala? Nobody. ABVP reacted because SFI activists physically assaulted them for questioning the beef fest inside a campus where non-vegetarian food is not allowed. There are many Hindus in Kerala who eat beef.
We never thought of or discussed banning beef in Kerala, because that is not necessary.
Everywhere the food culture is different. In north Kerala they have non-veg for Onam Sadhya but in the southern parts of the state, it is unacceptable. In the north, cow slaughter harms the religious feelings of people, so we respect them.
We do not seek a uniform food policy at the national level.
A broad Hindu alliance in Kerala is being talked about, is that how the BJP will approach the elections?
We don’t have any such agenda. We just wanted to bring the neglected majority of Kerala into the mainstream. For the last few years the Muslim League has been ruling Kerala, not the Congress.
But in a state like Kerala, would minorities, who do form a significant chunk, not feel insecure?
We are not against minorities. Some people who lead the Muslim League use religion for their politics. But the fact is that even minority communities’ problems are not solved by them.
We are not against minority communities but we support suppressed groups who are unfortunately the majority Hindus in Kerala.
The Kerala BJP is perceived as indulging in religious polarisation?
No, it is not. We should provide development to neglected groups; in Kerala unfortunately it is the majority castes that have been neglected.
Then why doesn’t the BJP work among lower castes or labourers who were neglected for decades?
In Kerala, the BJP is the only party that works for them. BJP works for their development. Most of the protests for the scheduled caste and tribes are initiated by the CPI(M) because they are scared that the BJP will organise it. In Munnar, we did not have a union among those plantation workers so we did not interfere.
Many incidents that have happened elsewhere, like MM Kalburgi’s murder or Dadri lynching, how does Kerala BJP perceive it?
They all are propaganda. For example in the Kalburgi issue, there were other elements also. And he had some property issues. Why have the police not arrested a single person in the incident? Because if they arrest, the real culprit will get revealed and their propaganda to attack the right wing won’t work out. And why did these writers not protest against Sikh massacre? All these issues are created to harm the image of right wing politics.
Why is the BJP following an aggressive propaganda of attacking minority communities, even raking up old issues. Recently you made a comment to the effect that author Kamala Surayya or Madhavikutty was a victim of love jihad.
Kairali TV interviewed a woman who lived 20 years ago in Amritanandamayi Asram. Moreover it is not information released officially by the BJP. Some people might have cited it as part of a discussion. It was not a propaganda message from the party.
When people see some injustice they will react. For that reaction they may cite these incidents, it is natural. For example in the recent Kerala Varma college issue, everyone was criticising a small temple (Nagathara) in the college. But if Muslim institutions can have prayer halls, Christian institutions can have pictures of Jesus and chapels, why can’t a college under Devaswom Board light a lamp in Nagathara?
You have spoken candidly, but in many instances it is seen that cadres are intolerant to criticism.
For years they have been suppressed, and this is their reaction. These reactions are not planned. This will be planned only when the leadership is also intolerant, but we are not.
No Interest in SNDP Alliance?
SNDP alliance : It is said that the state leadership is not interested in an alliance with SNDP, is it so?
The first discussion on this matter was with Amit Shah. I went with Vellapally Natesan and Tushar Vellapally to meet Shah. If I was not interested why whould I initiate these discussions?
We discussed it together. It was the state leadership who helped them (Vellappally Natesan and family) get an appointment with the Prime Minister. After that, even before their meeting, media predicted that Natesan is the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP in Kerala. But we did not say anything like that. Neither Natesan nor the BJP leadership mentioned that.
Natesan said that they don’t have any relationship with the BJP. This shows that SNDP is not interested in the alliance right? But you say we are not interested. It is an agenda set by some in the media. Other than that there are no misunderstandings. SNDP has not yet decided about the alliance, they will decide only after one or two months.
SNDP at present doesn’t have a mechanism to enter electoral politics independently.
Why do you unanimously support Natesan in the case of Swami Saswathikananda’s death?
We don’t support anyone. We just ask some questions like if LDF believes in their allegations why didn’t they look for Swami’s murderer when they ruled? After the incident UDF ruled for eight years and LDF ruled for five years. Why did they not investigate issue?
Above all, Biju Ramesh brought these allegations out after a meeting with Gokulam Gopalan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
Why does the BJP in Kerala have a soft spot for the Congress while it aggressively attacks the CPI(M)?
We oppose both parties. Left parties at least have an ideology that we can oppose but the Congress doesn’t even have an ideology.
Why has Oommen Chandy kept silent in BJP-related issues. Is there any possibility of a secret understanding? Apparently there is a Congress agenda to defeat CPI(M)?
Nothing, we won’t act according to Congress’ agenda. In the coming elections both the LDF and the UDF will face a setback.
(Haritha John works with The News Minute. The article has been edited for length.)
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