16 OutlOOk 29 july 2019
Telangana is smoother sailing. Though
the party fared badly in the 2018
ass embly polls, it bounced back by
winning four of the 17 Lok Sabha seats
this year. The party seizes an
advantageous position if the OBCs—a
major bloc in Telangana —choose to
support it as the alleged ‘minority
appeasement’ by KCR is not going
down well with them. It’s also hoping
to garner support from the influential
Reddy community. BJP state unit
spokesperson Krishna Sagar Rao
claims that many Congress and TDP
leaders, besides disgruntled TRS
members, are willing to join the party.
“Many senior leaders who had left us
to join the TRS have returned. We are
open to admitting anyone who is
opposed to dynastic rule at the Centre
and in the state,” he says. “Our party is
changing with the times. It’s not an
NGO or a religious outfit like the VHP.”
AMIL Nadu continues to give stiff
resistance to the BJP, leaving the
party struggling to catch the pulse of
Dravidian politics. Its central leaders
say their priority is to strengthen alli
ances in the state. “We have to
strengthen them well ahead of elec
tions,” says MP Narasimha Rao. “We
already have a formidable alliance
with the AIADMK. It can do well.”
The party has also been handi
capped by the absence of a charis
matic statelevel leader. The central
leadership is apparently considering
Nainar Nagendran for the role. The
former AIADMK member joined the
BJP two years ago. “I will do anything
the party asks me to,” says Nagendran,
who was a minister in the erstwhile J.
Jayalalithaa government. Belonging to
the powerful OBC Thevar community,
he is expected to help the BJP grow in
south and central Tamil Nadu.
Observers say the party may also try
to piggyback on leaders like actor
We would like to get
CPM and Congress
leaders into the BJP
V. Muraleedharan, minister of state
for external affairs and Rajya Sabha
MP from Kerala, claims that the BJP
will make significant gains in the
2021 assembly polls in the state. In a
conversation with Preetha nair, he
discusses the party’s performance and
strategy in Kerala. Edited Excerpts:
Amit Shah recently said that the
BJP is targeting Kerala. What is
your roadmap for the state?
Kerala and Tamil Nadu are going to
have assembly polls in two years. Our
first effort is to reach out to more peo
ple through a membership campaign
which has already been launched. We
have set a target of increasing our
membership to 5 million in the state.
Another strategy is to strengthen our
organisational base by getting more
influential people and leaders into the
BJP. We would like to welcome leaders
from other parties as well—mainly
from Congress and CPI(M). Many
people are in talks with us and some
have already joined.
Despite the Sabarimala issue, BJP
failed to get a single seat in the LS
polls. Where did you go wrong?
There are two reasons for the poor
performance of the party. People were
angry with the LDF and they wanted
to punish them for their stand on
Sabarimala. They thought they could
defeat the LDF by voting for the
Congress. They didn’t opt for the BJP
as we are in the third position.
the Congress-led UDF demanded
an ordinance on Sabarimala in the
current Parliament session, but
didn’t get a favourable response
from the Centre. Do you think this
will dampen BJP’s prospects?
The private member’s bill and
demand for ordinance are political
ploys. People will see through these.
The Congress did not mention
Sabarimala in its manifesto. Why
were they silent then?
Did the BJP commit a mistake by
treating Sabarimala issue as hindus
What do you mean by others? It was a
fight between believers and non
believers. Each place of worship has its
own rules. There is is no such thing as
a secular temple. We have seen how
Muslim clerics pulled up TMC MP
Nusrat Jahan for sporting sindoor.
Do you think the BJP’s ‘north Indian
party’ image is harming it?
It’s a perception spread by opponents
of our party. If that were the case, we
wouldn’t have got 26 seats in
Karnataka and four in Telangana.
What are your expectations from
the 2021 assembly polls?
We will try to form the government.
Politics is unpredictable. Three years
ago, we wouldn’t have imagined such a
strong mandate in West Bengal. Even
a week is a long time in politics. A few
days back, no one would have thought
that 10 Congress MLAs would join the
BJP in Goa. O
“We have to strengthen
our alliances in tamil
Nadu well ahead of polls.
our alliance with the
AIADMK can do well,”
says MP Narasimha Rao.