Did you convince the state leadership of BJP about this?

Yes, I conveyed this to all stakeholders in my party and convinced them that I have a great chance of winning. On retrospect, this seems to have worked against me. Mind you, there is no single constituency in the state from where the party can be considered as the surefire winner. This is true for even the so-called A-plus constituencies where we have come up at the third place, of which Chengannur is one. But my candidature as a prospective winner seems to have upset the calculations of the state leadership of the party which does not want anyone other than its own choice to win.

How do you explain your appeal with the Nairs, Ezhavas and Muslims?

While serving as an advisor to Murli Manohar Joshi, I was able to get clearance for several medical and engineering colleges and technical institutions promoted by these communities and the Christians. Everything about these clearances was transparent, and there was no hanky-panky involved. This had already helped me to develop a strong bond with the leaders of these communities.

There is no other BJP leader in the state who can claim this. None has the skill nor is trained to build spiritual and emotional contact with community elders. For instance, I was granted an exclusive two-and-a-half-long audience with the Catholicate of the Orthodox Syrian Church in Kottayam Metropolitan. No detail has come out in the media on this meeting; I couldn’t care less and didn’t want to go public. All my one-to-one meetings with such venerable heads of various communities have been strictly private.

So, what’s the takeaway for the party from these exclusive meetings?

This level of rapport and, above all, mutual trust among communities is what we need in Kerala. If the BJP wants to make any meaningful impact in Kerala politics, it cannot work without involving these three communities. But the issue is that anybody managing to win is looked at suspiciously by the current leadership. I was aware of the ground reality. This is clearly why I said from the beginning that my interest would be Chengannur only. Had I won from here (which was a given, according to me), this would have become a template for the party to win from even other constituencies.

This is because the party winning a seat from Central Travancore would become the first barometer of the Nair-Christian-Ezhava mobilisation’s success in its favour and therefore of great symbolic value. But this was clearly not to the liking of the party leadership, and in this manner, many winnable seats are being squandered merely because it cannot see beyond its nose. If somebody has to win, he or she must belong to the current leadership of the party. It will go to any extent to kill the prospects of any other aspirant. This is where its mafia-like role becomes apparent.

Are you disappointed with the goings-on at the party?

Politics is now a business, no more a mission or a service for the public. If you have the power at the Centre, you wield it to the hilt in the state with no questions asked. You use power to blackmail, threaten, extort, and whatnot. Since there is no power in the state, there’s no responsibility. When you are in control, you have certain limitations and need to be transparent because you are always in public glare. But when you are out of power but have a powerful Centre behind you, you can get away with anything.

Were you driving a parliamentary dream while pitching a tent in Chengannur?

I don’t have any such dreams. If indeed I had some, I could have managed anything much earlier from the Centre or at New Delhi, where I have been based for long. Narendra Modi Ji knows me well, and I could’ve lobbied for anything and got whatever I wanted. While forming the government at the Centre, other senior leaders too had approached me seeking to know if I wanted to join. I politely refused everything saying that I would like to work for the party.

Where does the party in Kerala go from here?

The party has been at work here during the last so many years but has not achieved anything big. But I know it has an opportunity here. There is a craze for Modi Ji in the state, and there is a craze for a change. If we can capitalize on it, the BJP has enough space to be in…the Central Travancore area is a catchment area for it.

But the party is stagnant in Malabar. All constituencies in Malabar have got an assured 50,000+ votes which are hard to penetrate. It is not as if we don’t want Muslim votes. But it will take time to win them over. It needs a patient, and nuanced approach. Left to me, I’m confident I would be able to do it to some extent since I have built up some rapport already with the community. I’ve friends in the Muslim League as well as those Muslim leaders even in the Left Front.

I know all of them at a very different level. It is doable, but we must have something to stand on first. This would have been made easy in Central Travancore. My father was one of the founding leaders of the Christian-led Kerala Congress. I have personally interacted with late KM Mani, a Kerala Congress titan and many-time Finance Minister in the state, who was very close to my father.

Why is that none of them has associated with the BJP-NDA in Kerala?

There was a time when the Kerala Congress would have been part of the NDA. But as I said earlier, the party leadership made a mess of it by calling the widely respected Mani names after being featured in a controversy. The party leadership has antagonized leaders of other parties as well. LK Advani Ji had the highest regards for KM Mani as the longest-serving parliamentarian and finance minister in Kerala. There was a time when he was very keen on coming into the NDA. Even son and current party Chairman Jose K Mani has been keen.

Leaders from Congress are willing to join the NDA, but the front leadership fears it would be eclipsed by luminaries joining in. First and foremost, you have to have a generous mindset. Nobody can afford to have a close mind in politics and hope to win. You must be willing to share power. Everybody is in politics for power only. There has to be a clear strategy to attract local/regional leaders. There is a real opportunity to replace Congress in Kerala.