All rhetoric, no announcements: Modi reaches out to Kerala women and Christians at Thrissur show

A women's meeting attended by thousands and a road show marked Modi's unofficial launch of the Lok Sabha campaign in Kerala.

ByK A Shaji

Published Jan 03, 2024 | 7:53 PMUpdatedJan 03, 2024 | 7:53 PM

Mahila Morcha leaders honour Modi at Thrissur event. Photo: Supplied

The BJP’s decision to depend heavily on women’s power and Christian votes to open an account in Kerala was evident at the mega political event Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed at the famous Thekkinkadu Maidan in Thrissur on Wednesday, 3 January.

Thousands of women from across the state listened to the prime minister’s 45-minute speech at the Nari Shakthi (Women’s Power) conference organised by the saffron party’s Mahila Morcha. The event was held to congratulate Modi for passing the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament.

Before the event, Modi took out an hour-long road show in the city. He was accompanied only by the BJP’s state president K Surendran and Suresh Gopi, the Malayalam superstar and the saffron party’s possible candidate in the Thrissur Lok Sabha constituency.

On the dais, Modi, Surendran, Gopi, Union Minister for State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, state prabhari Prakash Javadekar, and joint prabhari Radha Mohan Agarwal were the only men. The rest were all women.

Related: Actor Suresh Gopi to try his luck in Lok Sabha polls again

INDIA bloc: A pack of looters

In his fiery Hindi speech sprinkled with a liberal dose of Malayalam words, Modi held the state’s ruling LDF and the Opposition UDF for the lag in development works, and for impeding the empowerment of women.

The road show by Modi in Thrissur. Photo: Supplied

The road show by Modi in Thrissur. (Supplied)

Terming the Opposition INDIA bloc “a pack of looters” who came together based on their hatred towards Modi, the prime minister warned that Indian women would not benefit much if that alliance was allowed to capture power.

Terming both the UDF and LDF in the state as opportunists who pretend to be enemies in the state, but are constituents of the INDIA bloc outside Kerala, Modi expressed hope that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would defeat the Opposition alliance in Kerala as well.

Indicating the BJP’s plan to woo the Christians, Modi recalled his Christmas meeting with a cross-section of members of the minority community, ranging from priests and bishops to prominent laity members.

Modi indirectly referred to the LDF and UDF leaders’ criticism of the bishops attending the Christmas event he had hosted at his official residence.

“Kerala’s sons and daughters have contributed immensely to India’s independence, culture, and constitution. It is Modi’s guarantee that is running in the nation now. ‘Nari Shakti’ is the biggest guarantee of India,” Modi said to thunderous applause.

Hitting out at the Opposition, the prime minister emphasised that his “guarantee” had ensured 10 crore Ujwala gas connections, 11 crore water connections, 12 crore toilets, one crore Suvidha sanitary napkins, financial inclusion of one lakh Kerala women, and girls’ getting admitted to Sainik Schools.

Related: PM opens, launches projects worth ₹1,150 crore in Lakshadweep

Party no bar

He accused the Left and the Congress of weakening women’s empowerment.

The women gathering at Thrissur conference

Women from across Kerala attended the Thrissur event. (Supplied)

The prime minister, who began his speech by offering tributes to social reformer and Nair icon Mannathu Padmanabhan, freedom fighter Velu Nachiar of Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra’s Savitri Bai Phule, also mentioned iconic Kerala women AV Kuttimalu Amma, Akkamma Cheriyan and Rosamma Punnoose, who had immensely contributed to the freedom struggle.

While Kuttimalu Amma and Akkamma Cheriyan were top Congress leaders, Rosamma Punnose was the female face of the undivided Communist Party of India till her death.

BJP insiders told South First that Modi mentioned their names as part of his resolve to reach out to the state’s upper caste Nair and Christian communities. He also lauded the contributions of female sports celebrities from the state, including president of the Indian Olympic Association PT Usha, and long-jumper Anju Bobby George.

In between, Modi took the credit for ending the highly discriminatory triple talaq, in an apparent bid to reach out to Muslim women.

He claimed that he had fulfilled his commitment to the cause of women’s empowerment by facilitating the passage of the Bill.

“Regrettably, after independence, the Leftist-Congress government undermined the strength of our women,” Modi alleged. “The Congress and other parties delayed the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha. However, the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam has now become law. Modi has fulfilled his commitment,” he said.

Also Read: It’s a war of ‘Go Back Modi’ and ‘Vanakkam Modi’ in Tamil Nadu

Modi’s guarantee

Asserting that the progress of people with low income, women, youth, and farmers will ensure national growth, he also said there was a buzz around “Modi’s guarantee,” apparently referring to the Union government’s developmental initiatives.

“Today in the country, big roads are being made and modern airports are being built, but the INDIA bloc doesn’t let any work happen here because they oppose Modi. INDIA bloc wants full freedom in Kerala for looting. Here, the play that is happening due to the gold smuggling is not hidden from anyone,” Modi said, in an apparent reference to the gold smuggling scam with alleged links to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office.

“They don’t want anybody to question them regarding the funds that are being received from the Union government for the poor and infrastructure, so they try to create roadblocks to the Union government schemes,” he said.

“Modi-yude (Modi’s guarantee),” he kept repeating throughout his speech.

“After independence, the LDF and UDF governments considered ‘Nari Shakti’ as weak, and they put on hold the law that could give reservation to women in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha for so long, but Modi gave you the guarantee to give you your rights, and I fulfilled it. When the Congress and Left Alliance governments were in the country, Muslim sisters were suffering because of triple talaq. Still, Modi guaranteed freedom from it and fulfilled it sincerely,” he said.

Modi also mentioned Karthiyayaniamma and Bhageerathi Amma, two centenarians who appeared for continuing adult education, and tribal playback singer Nanjiamma, who won a National Award under his government.

Among those on the dais included Mariyakutty, a 78-year-old woman who embarrassed the Vijayan government by begging on the streets and moving the court for her five months’ social welfare pension dues.

Actress Shobhana, singer Vaikom Vijayalakshmi, entrepreneur Beena Kannan, and PT Usha were the other dignitaries on the stage. Muraleedharan translated Modi’s speech into Malayalam.

Contrary to expectations, Modi made no announcements on development programmes for Kerala or Thrissur. There were no assurances, there was a lot of rhetoric.