'Slaughter of cows will be opposed by all parties in UP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, etc while it is different in Kerala, Goa and the north east.'
'Every national party adapts and take a view on various issues depending on the local situation and the feelings of the local people.'
'So, the Kerala BJP will look at each issue from the Kerala perspective, and not that of UP.'
IMAGE: V Muraleedharan, right, with Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit A Shah, July 5. 2015. Photograph: Kind courtesy http://amitshah.co.in
A graduate in English literature from Thalassery in Kerala, V Muraleedharan's involvement with the Sangh Parivar began in school as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
Later, he was appointed the Kerala state organising secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ABVP's national general secretary.
Muraleedharan, 59, was the BJP's Kerala president for five years, from 2010 to 2015.
Soon after he was nominated as the BJP's candidate for the Rajya Sabha elections -- from Maharashtra, an election which he won unopposed -- Muraleedharan spoke to Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.
After the victory in Tripura, BJP President Amit A Shah said the party's next destination would be Kerala. You have just one MLA after years of struggle.
Will it be possible for the BJP to come to power in Kerala?
In Tripura, we had no MLA in the last assembly and had only 1.5% share of votes. From that situation, we came to power in Tripura.
If we can get a majority from 1.5% vote share, why is not possible in Kerala where we have 16% vote share?
People of Kerala are fed up of alternating between the UDF and the LDF for many years. Now they can compare the governance of Narendra D Modi at the Centre and the LDF government in Kerala.
People would definitely try for a viable alternative. Till the 2015 assembly elections, people of Kerala always felt that voting for the BJP was wasting a vote as the BJP was not going to win a single seat.
But in the 2015 elections, we won one seat and also came second in 6, 7 constituencies. Now, nobody will say that voting for the BJP will be wasting a vote.
By the time the next elections happen, people will start looking at the BJP as a viable alternative.
Do you expect to have more partners in the Third Front by the next election in Kerala?
We already have an NDA in Kerala. I admit there has to be better internal lubrication among members of the NDA. There are possibilities of more parties joining the NDA.
One of the first organisations to support the BJP in Kerala was the SNDP, but SNDP leaders are dissatisfied with the way they were treated by the BJP.
SNDP leader Vellapally Natesan has expressed his displeasure on many occasions.
Several of your earlier allies like the Shiv Sena and TDP are leaving the NDA.
Is it because the BJP has become arrogant and overconfident?
Absolutely not. You should understand that every alliance has got various dimensions.
You have to take into account the relationship of various state units of the BJP with the alliance partners.
For example, you take the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. The kind of influence the Shiv Sena under Balasaheb Thackeray wielded and the kind of influence the Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray has is different.
Today, the BJP has Narendra D Modi and Amit A Shah at the helm of affairs, but the Sena does not understand the change in equations.
That was why the Shiv Sena wanted to contest more seats than the BJP in the state assembly election.
The earlier sharing formula came into existence between Pramod Mahajan, Vajpayeeji, Advaniji and Balasaheb Thackeray. That was done 20 years ago.
The situation today is different. The Shiv Sena should have understood the changing scenario at the ground level. That was the reason why the BJP and Shiv Sena contested independently in the Maharashtra assembly election.
What about the TDP?
(Telugu Desam Party leader Nara Chandrababu) Naidu was with the NDA during Atalji's time, but left the NDA for better pastures. He came back when it was better here.
You should understand that the BJP is an independent party and it has its own views.
What I understand is that BJP cadres in Andhra were dissatisfied with Naidu. So, the problem was between the state BJP and the TDP.
Now, let me talk about the situation in Kerala.
There is no problem in the BJP's relationship with the BDJS (Bharath Dharma Jana Sena). In fact, we have an excellent working relationship.
The BDJS has not said a single word against the Kerala BJP. Some of the promises made to them were not fulfilled. I am not going by the letter of what they said, I am going by the spirit of what they said.
That spirit translates to internal lubrication which needs to be improved.
The allegation against the BJP by its allies is that the party does not know coalition dharma...
The state BJP made the same complaint against Naidu. In his government, there were two BJP ministers. I don't think the TDP extended the same courtesy to the state BJP, that the central BJP had given him.
The fact is, both are making allegations against each other.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath admitted that the BJP lost the two Lok Sabha by-polls because of overconfidence...
He was making the statement in the context of UP, about the two specific by-poll results, and not about Maharashtra or Andhra or the national BJP.
Overconfidence might be the reason for the loss of those two seats.
IMAGE: V Muraleedharan, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader elected to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.
A year ago, it was a foregone conclusion that Modi would come back to power in 2019. After Gujarat and the two by-poll losses in UP, it is said that the situation is different now...
Remember there is one more year to go. Predictions do not make the poll outcome.
You should remember we won the Gujarat elections. We also won the Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya elections. I don't think you should only look at the UP by-poll results.
The other day DMK Working President M K Stalin spoke of the need for the southern states to unite under Dravida Nadu to stop a North Indian party from dominating the south.
How do you look at the BJP being perceived as a north Indian party even today?
How can you say that the BJP is a north Indian party when it is ruling four states in the north east?
I can confidently say that the BJP is not looked upon as a north Indian party in Kerala.
The perception is that the BJP is trying to impose Hindi and also ban eating beef.
Do you feel beef politics will badly hurt the BJP in Kerala because Hindus eat beef in Kerala?
You should understand that the BJP in each state functions in the context of each state. It is the same with the Congress too.
For example, the Congress in UP and the Congress in Kerala will have divergent views on eating beef.
Slaughter of cows will be opposed by all parties in UP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, etc while it is different in Kerala, Goa and the north east.
Every national party adapts and take a view on various issues depending on the local situation and the feelings of the local people.
So, the Kerala BJP will look at each issue from the Kerala perspective, and not that of UP.
Did the beef controversy affect the BJP in Kerala?
Then, how did we grow from 6% to 15%?
Remember Narendra D Modi came to power in 2014. In Kerala, the issue has been used by the Left and Congress to get the votes of the minorities.
The minority vote bank is the bone of contention between the Left and the Congress. The BJP is not there in the picture.
When the Left felt it would lose some of its majority votes to the BJP, it wanted to compensate it by wooing the minorities.
Do you see the Left and Congress joining hands to defeat the BJP like the SP and BSP joined hands in UP?
They have already done that. In Manjeswaram, we lost by 89 votes because of this understanding.
In 2011, they came together in Nemam so that O Rajagopal (now the sole BJP MLA in Kerala) was defeated. The same thing happened in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Rajagopalji lost by 14,000 votes. But in 2015, in Nemam, there was a counter consolidation and he won.
I am sure next time in Manjeswaram, those who did not vote for the BJP would make sure that we won.
The BJP is helpless here. I don't want to go by the number of murders; I want to go by the approach of each party.
The CPM has been intolerant to criticism and any viewpoint other than theirs.
Kannur is not our stronghold; it is their bastion.
We are not the people who are creating trouble; they are.
The CPM has to accept that this is a democracy and people can have any viewpoint.
In a democratic set-up, any party has the right to propagate. The CPM can't accept this reality.
The basic reason for the violence you see there is because of the kind of violent language used by CPM leaders in Kerala at public meetings to spread hatred against the BJP.
North Kerala is still considered underdeveloped and Kannur is the most underdeveloped.
Kannur is one district that has been electing Communist leaders for decades.
Yet if the region has not been developing, it is because the kind of violence they are propagating is affecting the development of the region. I am sure people will realise this sooner or later.
What is the strategy you have in mind for the BJP in Kerala?
Right now, we have an alliance with the BDJS and Kerala Congress (P C Thomas) and we have Alphons Kannanthanam as a (Union) minister from Kerala.
I can say these are the contours of the alliances that are developing.
We will build on this and also expose the unholy nexus between the CPM and the Congress in corruption.
Realistically, where do you see the BJP in the next election in Kerala?
We will be a serious contender for power.