Analysis | Can Kerala BJP gain from 'National Muslim' Abdullakutty's chameleon act?

Analysis | Can Kerala BJP gain from 'National Muslim' Abdullakutty's chameleon act?

In what could be called the third innings of a three-decade political career, wherein he made a mockery of hitherto set norms of ideological allegiance, Kerala politician A P Abdullakutty recently joined the BJP. Having started his political career with the CPM, on whose ticket he became a Lok Sabha MP twice, Abdullakutty joined the Congress after the Marxists expelled him for praising the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2009. Ten years down the line, the Congress too booted him out, this time also for praising Narendra Modi. The only difference was Modi was Prime Minister this time and the paeans were for his stunning victory for the second time.

Joining BJP then came as a natural choice for the man from Kannur, especially since the saffron party has of late been wooing leaders from religious minorities in Kerala.

Having Abdullakutty in its kitty is undoubtedly a gain for the BJP, but most probably only for some symbolic value. Assuming that BJP can make inroads into the Muslim community with the induction of a leader like Abdullakutty would be a thought in vain, for a number of reasons.

For BJP Kerala president P S Sreedharan Pillai, Abdullakutty's induction is only a beginning. He believes that Abdullakutty joining BJP would help the party a lot in perception management, which is important for any party in this post-truth era.

Analysis | Can Kerala BJP gain from 'National Muslim' Abdullakutty's chameleon act?
AP Abdullakutty with CPM workers after winning the the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 from the Kannur constituency as LDF candidate. File photo: Josekutty Panackal

“For long, both the LDF and UDF in Kerala have been scaring the people by portraying BJP and PM Modi as anti-minorities. A person like Abdullakutty, who has wide acceptance among the Muslims, joining BJP would definitely help us. It gives them many an opportunity to introspect their political positions,” Pillai said.

Pillai, however, evaded a question on whether one can expect Abdullakutty as a candidate in the coming assembly bypolls in the state.

Senior journalist and BJP fellow-traveller K V S Haridas sounded more realistic in his assessment of Abdullakutty's induction. “Anybody joining BJP is a good sign. However, I don't think that one Abdullakutty can make any big change in Muslims' attitude towards BJP in Kerala,” he said.

Analysis | Can Kerala BJP gain from 'National Muslim' Abdullakutty's chameleon act?
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala with Abdullakutty.

He said it's a “Himalayan task” for the BJP to take minorities in confidence in Kerala. “In Kerala, Muslims consider the Muslim League as a mother organisation. League is well organised and the fact that it keeps coming to power every five years also prompts the minority community to stick to it,” he added.

Rubbishing the argument that the minorities refuse to vote for BJP in Kerala because of its Hindutva ideology, Haridas said Christians and Muslims don't vote for the saffron party in the state because it has not been able to make an impression that it is coming to power. He is of the view that BJP can make such an impression only if it can break the existing bipolar political system in the state.

Analysis | Can Kerala BJP gain from 'National Muslim' Abdullakutty's chameleon act?
Tom Vadakkan, a former aide of Sonia Gandhi, who joined BJP recently.

Coming back to Abdullakutty, he said it would be wrong to assume that the Muslim leader can bring with him a major chunk of voters. “However, having him within the party sends out a message to the minorities,” he said. According to Haridas, BJP is unlikely to field Abdullakutty as its candidate in the upcoming Manjeswaram bypoll because the Hindus in the constituency who have been voting for the BJP may not accept it.

Writer and social commentator Hameed Chennamangaloor said Abdullakutty does not mean to do any good for the BJP by joining it. Calling him a power hungry politician, Hameed said Abdullakutty would not have left Congress had he been given a ticket in the recent Lok Sabha polls. “If he doesn't get any posts or power in the BJP he may leave it too and join another party, may be League,” he said.

Analysis | Can Kerala BJP gain from 'National Muslim' Abdullakutty's chameleon act?
Abdullakutty with UDF leaders K Sudhakaran and PK Kunhalikutty.

Hameed also contested Abdullakutty's claim that he became a “National Muslim” by joining BJP. Placing the phrase in historical terms, Hameed said it was used to describe Muslims with secular credentials in the pre-Partition times. In that sense, Abdullakutty had already been a national Muslim when he was with CPM and Congress because those parties believe in a secular ideology,” he clarified.

Analysis | Can Kerala BJP gain from 'National Muslim' Abdullakutty's chameleon act?
BJP leader and Former Union Minister of State for Tourism Alphons Kannanthanam.

Hameed added that Abdullakutty, like some other minority leaders who joined the BJP of late, faces a credibility issue. After being ousted from CPM, Abdullakutty had accused the party of not letting him follow his religious beliefs. Such allegations do not hold water, he said.

Abdullakutty is also facing sexual allegations by Saritha S Nair, the main accused in the sensational solar scam.

Analysis | Can Kerala BJP gain from 'National Muslim' Abdullakutty's chameleon act?
BJP leaders welcoming Abdullakutty to the party.

It is learnt that BJP is in a frantic bid to woo leaders from minority communities in Kerala to make itself suit the state's secular fabric. In recent years, it has been able to bring leaders like P C Thomas, P C George, Alphons Kannanthanam and Tom Vadakkan to its fold. While Thomas and George are its allies, Kannanthanam severed ties with CPM and Vadakkan quit Congress to join BJP. However, none of them was able to bring any significant electoral gain to the saffron front in the southern state. Abdullakutty, touted as 'Adbhuthakutty' (miracle boy) when he defeated Congress strongman Mullappally Ramachandran in Kannur LS seat in 1999, is most likely to end up one among the lot, unless he pulls off another miracle.