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Kerala polls: Can Sreesanth create history by becoming the first BJP MLA in the state?

Raj Singh 24 Apr 2016, 9:51:31 IST
Raj Singh

New Delhi: As long as Sreesanth played cricket, he came across as a sportsman who was outspoken and not afraid of taking risks. His cricketing career was full of contrasting moments. If his fans remember him for the historic catch that he took in the finale of 2007 World T20 tournament then they also can’t erase the memory of the ugly fight that Sreesanth had with Harbhajan Singh in the inaugural IPL season. Tears rolled down the cheeks of Sreesanth after Harbhajan Singh slapped him hard following the verbal spat.
 
Sreesanth , however,  has the distinction of being the first Kerala Ranji player who played T20 cricket for Team India.
 
His cricketing career came to an end after he and two other IPL players were arrested allegedly for   indulging in spot-fixing.  The BCCI, in fact, banned him for life-time from playing cricket although the Delhi High Court acquitted all the accused in this case, later on.

Sreesanth loves to make media headlines and has kept himself in limelight even after the abrupt end of his cricketing career. He keeps appearing on TV shows, he is a passionate dancer and loves to gyrate on TV screens. He also shot to fame with the role of a biker in Team 5, a bilingual Telugu-Malayalam movie.  

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How did he jump into politics? And why did he join BJP? Well, the story is very interesting indeed. Sreesanth, a Keralite by birth, is married to Bhuvneshwari Kumari, a Jaipur girl, whose father is a known BJP supporter.

During 2013 Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Sreesanth got an offer to join BJP but he declined because he was still in two minds over saying a final goodbye to cricket.  

Sreesanth decided to join BJP after he got a clean chit from the Delhi High Court. He was already being advised by his father-in-law to join politics and finally he decided to throw his hat in the political ring. Sreesanth, however, chose to join electoral politics in his home state i.e. Kerala.

It was not an easy task for Sreesanth to have opted for contesting Assembly elections on a BJP ticket in Kerala. The BJP has never been able win a single seat either in an Assembly or parliamentary elections in the state. The state is hugely polarised between Congress-led UDF and CPI(M)-led LDF and that leaves very little space for a party like BJP which is known for its pro-Hindutva image despite the fact that the state has around 55% Hindu population.

Since, Muslims and Christaians constitute around 45% of the population, the BJP has always found it difficult to convince Kerala voters about the essence of its distinct brand of politics. The Hindus traditionally support CPI(M) in Kerala while the Christians support the Congrerss.
 
The reason being that CPI(M) has been largely  headed by Hindu leaders like EK Nayanar and VS Achuthanandan while the Congress has been headed by Christian leaders like A K Antony and Oomen Chandy with exceptions like that of K Karunakaran.  The Muslim votes get divided between the two although the Congress is in alliance with IUML (Indian Union Muslim League), which has significant presence among Muslims of the state, for a long time.  

And the choice of the Assembly seat has also made Sreesanth’s task cut out in these elections. Sreesanth is trying his luck in these elections from Thiruvananthapuram Central constituency and his opponents include a political heavyweight like Shiv Kumar who belongs to Congress and is the health minister in the UDF government.  Antony Raju of LDF and Biju Ramesh of AIADMK are also in the fray.

Can Sreesanth change the BJP’s fortunes in these elections. What can’t be overlooked is the fact that despite a Modi wave blowing across the country in 2014 general elections, the BJP failed to open its account in Kerala although the party secured a 10.33% vote share which was 4% more than what it got in 2011 Assembly elections.

Apart from his father-in-law, what was it that attracted Sreesanth towards the BJP?

If Sreesanth is to be believed then the very fact that an ordinary person like Narendra Modi rose through BJP ranks to occupy the most powerful chair, convinced him that BJP was different from all other political parties. And even his father who, like many Keralite Hindus, was a CPI(M) supporter changed his allegiance and became a BJP supporter primarily y because he was also impressed by the story of Narendra Modi’s success.
 
It’s not that BJP is not focussing on other seats from where it is contesting. In fact, the party is contesting 97 of 140 seats on its own in these Assembly elections.

The party has left 37 seats for its ally, the newly formed Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), headed by Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam  who has good following among the powerful  backward ezhava community. Kerala Congress, the party of former union minister P C Thomas, is also part of the BJP-led alliance in the state.

The BJP plans to hold around 70 rallies in the state to be addressed by both state and national leaders  and some of them are likely to be addressed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself but all eyes would be on Sreesanth and his Thiruvananthapuram Central constituency.

Sreesanth is well aware of the challenges that he is facing but like a true sportsperson he is not deterred and is leaving no stone unturned in convincing the voters especially the youth of his constituency. He is running from temples to mosques and churches.

He does not forget to points out in his rallies that he belongs to a sport where there is no division on the basis of caste, creed and religion and that even Indian  politics should have these ethics of a great game like cricket.

Political observers point out that Sreesanth, being a political green horn, has the liberty to talk of utopian philosophies but he may realise soon that politics is a different ballgame altogether.  

It will be interesting to see if Sreesanth succeeds in proving political pundits of the state wrong and creates history by becoming the first BJP MLA in the state.