After 36 years of its formation, the BJP has managed to open its account in southern state of Kerala.
O. Rajagopal became the first BJP leader to win an assembly election when he emerged victorious from Nemom constituency in capital Thiruvananthapuram in a triangular fight.
BJP’s Kerala hopes always rested on O. Rajagopal. After many defeats in polls, the former Union minister has now tasted success. This is not only a personal success for Rajagopal, but for his party.
His victory also changes the fortunes of the BJP and might possibly mark the beginning of a re-plotting of the political landscape of ‘Gods Own Country’.
Despite having a near perfect organisational structure, with thousands of RSS ‘shakhas’ and various other affiliate organisations, Kerala was still insurmountable for the BJP. Polarised between two political alliances the communist led LDF and the Congress led UDF it was not easy for the BJP to make its presence felt in Kerala.
The demographic combination of Kerala with sizable sections of Muslims and Christians also stood in the way of the Hindu right wing party. But right from the days of Jan Sangh, the Sangh Parivar treated Kerala with great importance. One reason may be because the organisations’s biggest ideological adversaries, the communists and the minorities have considerable clout in the state and they wanted to undo it.
A man with impeccable ideological orientation, O. Rajagopal is considered as the patriarch of the party along with the late K. G. Marar who was the president of the state unit for a very long time. Drawn to active politics by the political philosophy of Deenadayal Upadhyay, Rajagopal’s political career started with Jansangh. He was general secretary and then president of the Jan Sangh during the 70s. A lawyer by profession, he was incarcerated during emergency at Viyyur central prison.
Rajagopal was appointed as the state president of the BJP when it was formed in 1980. Later he went on to become the national general secretary, and vice president of the saffron party.
His foray into electoral politics began in 1989 when he contested for Lok Sabha seat. But the election in 1991 clearly signaled the arrival of the fighter politician. In that election he contested from Thiruvanathapuram constituency and managed to get more than 20 percent of votes. In a state which was clearly divided between the Left and Congress, this heralded a change that was waiting to happen.
But between the cup and lip the parliamentary seat always eluded Rajettan, as he is popularly known, many times. O Rajagopal fought election after election without showing any sense of disillusionment and fatigue.
In the last parliament ballot, he narrowly lost to Shashi Tharoor, after which the affable Rajagopal lost his patience. He went on to blame the people of Thiruvanathapurm and even said that Kerala will be a loser for what he called the blunder committed by the people of Thiruvananthapuram.
Appreciative of his commitment towards the ideology, the BJP made him a minister of state in the Vajpayee government. He was sent to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh. He used his ministership to advance the political fortunes of the BJP when he was the minister of state for railways. People in Kerala still recall his contribution and say the only development in the state’s rail sector had been when Rajagopal was the minister.
There was a phase when he seemed to have lost interest in active politics and immersed himself in the work of Mata Amruthanandamayi Mutt in Kerala’s Kollam district. The staunch disciple of Amritanada Mayi, had even named a train as ‘Amritha Express’ to show his obsequiousness towards her.
Now, after very long drawn fight O Rajagopal will be the first RSS man to enter the Kerala Assembly.
The BJP has fought this election with utmost seriousness. The blitzkrieg campaign seemed to suggest the lotus is going to bloom at many places in the state. But results show that even though the party could not win more seats, it has made its presence felt in a big way in many constituencies.
For prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah Rajagopal’s victory in Nemom constituency in Thiruvanathapuram is a shot in the arm. What impact it is going to have in a state with composite culture remains to be seen. But for BJP and Rajagopal this is celebration time.