Analysis | Will there be no ‘Modi's guarantee’ if Kerala refuses to elect a BJP MP?

Narendra Modi
PM Modi greets people in Kochi on his earlier visit to Kerala. File Photo: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's fourth public address in Kerala this year on Friday had all its standard elements: corrupt Congress and Communists, their show of hostility in Kerala and camaraderie in New Delhi, the PM's initial greetings in Malayalam, his shrewd attempts to reach out to minorities and expatriates and presidential style declarations of 'Modi's guarantee'.

Yet, the Pathanamthitta speech on Friday (March 15) was unlike any the PM had made in Kerala. It was for the first time Modi gave out the message that the BJP cannot wait any longer for a party MP from Kerala. He clearly suggested, though in patronising words, that Central help for Kerala would be conditional on voters electing BJP MPs from Kerala.

"In addition to the efforts of the BJP government, there is one more thing that is important for the development of Kerala. All the desires of the people of Kerala should reach the Centre," the PM said. "If there is a BJP MP in Kerala, it will be easier for Kerala's desires to reach the Centre and also for the Centre to plan suitable schemes for Kerala. Any projects or schemes that the people of Kerala wish for can be reached to us in a far better way through BJP MPs," the PM said. He was clearly saying that a BJP government would give its ear only to a BJP MP.

It was only then, after telling voters the best way to get prodigious Central assistance, that he gave his presidential guarantee. "And to satisfy your desires, there is nothing that Modi will not do. Yeh hai, Modiyude guarantee (This is Modi's guarantee)," he said.

It was the context that made the PM's remarks ominous. The PM's speech came at a time when Kerala has taken the Modi government to the Supreme Court for depriving Kerala of what the LDF government calls the state’s rightful share of resources. For the last two years, the LDF government has been consistently complaining that the Centre was smothering Kerala fiscally. There were also reports that Modi had personally intervened to slash the entitlements of states.

Nonetheless, Modi’s remarks were also a sign of the man’s confidence going into the polls. The PM seemed absolutely sure he would return to power for the third time.

Modi is also a leader with a great sense of location. Pathanamthitta has a decisive Christian population and is an economy largely sustained by remittance money. The PM's speech reflected this understanding. He spoke of a trade pact with the UAE and how it would benefit Kerala's youth in the Gulf.

And it was with great pride that the PM recounted his meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2021. He said he had spoken a lot about Kerala with the Pope. Modi made it sound as if he was close friends with the Pope. This time the BJP has chosen a Christian candidate, Anil K Antony, for Pathanamthitta.

Curiously, the PM was also realistic. When he was in Thiruvananthapuram on February 27, Modi had said that the BJP, which had achieved a double-digit vote share in Kerala, would secure double-digit MPs from Kerala this time.

However, at Pathanamthitta on Friday, Modi said that the BJP was "not too far from double-digit MPs" in Kerala. Clearly, he was not expecting 10 or more BJP MPs from Kerala any time soon.

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