By Raju P Nair
Narendra Modi was the star campaigner for BJP, the party which is trying hard to open an account in the Kerala Assembly. The Prime Minister spoke at 5 election rallies in Kerala, taking the confidence level of the party workers to its peak and also giving a feeling that BJP is emerging as a third force in the state and putting up a strong fight in many constituencies. BJP got renewed vigour with the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's statement in Kuttanad that the fight in the election was mainly between the Congress and BJP, a statement which was further clarified by all Congress leaders including AK Antony and Oommen Chandy.
On May 2016, when Modi spoke at the election rally at Thiruvananthapuram, in his enthusiasm to criticise the Kerala Model, he went to the extent of saying that the Infant Mortality Rate in Kerala is worse than that of Somalia, which hit the social media by a storm, evoking in response the trend #PoMoneModi. The reference was ridiculed not only by Keralites, but it became a talking point in the international media also with BBC reporting on how Malayalees mocked the Indian PM for his Somalia remark. The national leadership of all political parties stepped into the debate condemning the reference.
If it was an opportunity for the anti-Modi camp to harp on Modi in the virtual world, on the ground it was a strategic mistake for BJP. Narendra Modi could not have done anything more to help Congress in this election. The agenda of this election was set by the Congress with its slogan 'Valaranam ee naadu, thudaranam ee bharanam' which means the UDF government should continue for one more term to continue the development which was countered by the LDF slogan 'LDF Varum, ellam shariyaakum' which meant that in the last 5 years everything has gone wrong with the state and that LDF will make it all right once they come to power.
BJP raised the slogan 'Vazhimuttiya Keralam, Vazhi kaattan BJP' which meant that Kerala is standstill and BJP will show the way for Kerala. With the hyperbole from Modi, the UDF and LDF came together with factual reports and statements to prove that Kerala growth story is unmatched. Even the CPIM General Secretary came out to endorse that Kerala is the No. 1 state in the country, which exposed the hypocrisy in the LDF campaign that was being built up.
At a crucial time of the election in the last phase of the campaign, when the CPIM and BJP were sharpening their weapons to target the UDF with the Bar Bribery scam and Solar scam, one statement from Modi put the debate back on the development agenda set by Congress. The state discussed the achievements of Kerala in the social sector and infra structure development comparing with the other BJP ruled states which exposed the much talked about Gujarat model. UDF could not have hoped for any better debate at this crucial time. Modi, who is known for rhetoric and hyperbole in his election speech, once again got it wrong after the Naxal and DNA remark in the Delhi and Bihar elections respectively.
The writer is a member of the Indian National Congress