From the Campaign Trail: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

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Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala – There is no doubt that Rahul Gandhi’s candidacy in Wayanad has reenergized the party cadre across Kerala, however, that enthusiasm hasn’t spilled over to Thiruvananthapuram where Shashi Tharoor is contesting the election for a third term.

For reasons that cannot be explained well, the party workers at the ward and booth level have been lackadaisical in taking the party’s message to the voters at the ground level. If the party leadership doesn’t wake up and deal with the situation with a sense of urgency, we might lose the representation for Kerala by an internationally acclaimed personality whose victory not only may assure a cabinet-level appointment after the elections, but also provide a powerful voice in the Parliament and across the nation on behalf of pluralism and democracy.

The group rivalry that has been a fixture in the Congress politics in the State, may have a lot to do with the current situation. There are areas in the constituency, where party workers are notably absent. It has been said that more volunteers are working in Wayanad where Rahul Gandhi is running from, although that is a very safe constituency for the party, than in Thiruvananthapuram. The UDF is slated to win a majority of the seats from Kerala, and yet some of the contests are just too close to call.

Thiruvananthapuram is one of those constituencies where the BJP has poured in resources and fielded hundreds of RSS volunteers with a vow to defeat Tharoor. It appears that removing a great critic of the Modi regime has almost become an obsession in the higher ranks of BJP and they are willing to pay any price towards achieving that goal. That is quite understandable from a political standpoint; however, the question many folks are asking is why some in the Congress leadership in Kerala are acting as silent partners to the opposition agenda?

To begin with, some of them have consciously participated in this charade of spreading rumors that “Tharoor can’t win or he is behind” falsehood across the constituency almost making the opposition BJP candidate, Kummanam Rajasekharan, a divisive voice in the state, almost invincible. There is no doubt that this has been a disservice done to the voters by the vested interests and we will only know of the potential negative impact when the final tally will be in.

Let us face one reality that as many who appear to drape themselves with the tricolor during the day might also change to Saffron at night. It is almost frightening to observe that many in the party cadre and some in the leadership are becoming totally devoid of any values and principles of the Nehruvian vision and operating on their own to advance their self-development.

However, one thing is sure: communalism has arrived with its full force and ugliness to this once peaceful state. BJP is fanning the flames of communalism and bigotry to gain political ground in Kerala, which until now largely rejected BJP as an outlier. Although the Communist Party is running a distant third in the recent polls here, they too have determined to carry on with an active campaign to take away as much vote from the secular front to show their displeasure with the Congress decision on Wayanad. However, they fail to realize that a BJP victory from the Capital of Kerala, the seat of the LDF government, will prove to be more than a thorn in their backs and they may come to regret it.

The voters in Kerala are smart, thoughtful and deliberate. They also know very well how to distinguish a Vidhan Sabha (State Legislature) election from a Parliamentary one. They have witnessed the neglect and disdain shown by the BJP government towards Kerala especially during the great flood. They also have learned about the alleged involvement of RSS proxies who appear to have filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for the entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala Temple and BJP at the Center and at the State level initially welcomed such a decision. It is Modi’s Home Ministry that refused to file any review petition on behalf of the faithful they purportedly defending right now. It is the same ministry that kept reminding the state government to implement the SC decision. It is also the Modi government that has done nothing at the Central level either through an ordinance or via legislation to remedy the issue.

After having done nothing other than to fan the flames of division and exasperate the situation with their cadre protests to create havoc across the state similar to what has happened in Ayodhya, Gujarat, and Muzzafarnagar, they have now professed themselves to be the great guardians of the faithful! Keralites understand the devious game that is being played upon them, and they will give a fitting reply to BJP on April 23rd through the ballot box.

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George Abraham is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations and Chairman of the Indian National Overseas Congress, US

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