Religion was no opiate of the masses for A.P Abdullakutty, even in the days of his active engagement with Marxist politics involving dialectical materialism.

Then a firebrand Lok Sabha member from the CPI-M, he travelled over 600 km from his native Kannur in Kerala thirteen years ago to the village of Vaitheeswaran Kovil near Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, to meet an astrologer to trace his birthday, which his family had somehow not recorded.

A controversial Leftist, who described himself as a Muslim-Marxist, Abdullakutty returned content from Vaitheeswaran Kovil, where an aged practitioner of Nadi astrology furnished him with a complete horoscope.

The astrologer moreover advised him reportedly to change political loyalties at frequent intervals, to remain on top always in power and position. After all, Nadi astrology is the art of reading one’s destiny from one’s thumbs.

It was on Saturday that Abdullakutty became one among 12 national vice-presidents of the BJP. It happened a year after he undertook a journey to the national capital to meet Prime Minister Modi with the aim of totally overhauling his political image as the BJP’s Muslim mascot across South India.

The two-time CPM MP has hopped from Left to Right via the Centre. In the eleven years since his expulsion from a Communist Party for praising Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and his developmental agenda, the Congress not only provided him temporary asylum but also twice ensured his membership in the Kerala Assembly.

Curiously, in June last year the same Congress expelled him for praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his developmental agenda.

The alleged political turncoat who once embarrassed the Left with his high religiosity is very calculating even in his latest political move, ensuring a top slot in the BJP hierarchy.

Elections to the Assembly are nearing. And he knows his name matters. Having been able to convince Modi, Amit Shah and J.P Nadda that a believing Muslim like himself, who performed a pre-Hajj in Mecca soon after returning from Vaitheeswaran Kovil, can bridge the divide between hardcore believers among Hindus and Muslims in the coming days, now he may become the Shahnawaz Hussain of the South.

Although Alphons Kannamthanam, then a Union minister, was inducted as the party’s Christian face four years ago, the BJP lacked any visible Muslim face in the South so far. Now Abdullakutty may hope his party will take him around the country as a ‘nationalist’ Muslim with the Hindutva worldview.

After all he has a rare past, as two-time CPI-M MP and two-time Congress MLA.

While Abdullakutty emerges as a national Muslim face of the Sangh, his former comrades in the CPI-M and Congress describe him as a powermongering turncoat without ideology. “Opportunism personified” is how Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullapally Ramachandran described him.

Back in 2009 when the CPM had suspended him denying him a Lok Sabha ticket, the Gujarat CM had invited his Marxist fan to the party. He detected signs of “pushing democratic values in the country to danger” in the CPM’s expulsion of “this martyr” to the cause of aggressive industrialisation.

“Despite being a Muslim and a Communist, he praised me and my policies, and that deserves admiration,” said Modi in Feburary that year.

But Abdullakutty chose the Congress that time, as the chances of a BJP candidate in Kerala at the time were very thin. Now both the Left and Congress see him as a traitor.

Going by his own claims, Abdullakutty first made his political mark as firebrand state president of the Students Federation of India, the CPM student wing. Under his leadership the SFI conducted violent agitations against computerisation and self-financed colleges. But once his equation with the party came under strain, he became a big votary of a ban on agitational politics. And now he is a self-claimed champion of computer technology.

One thing the BJP can rely on is his self-projected feverish patriotism. He once said he would take a break from active politics to safeguard the country’s borders as a soldier of the Territorial Army. But he dropped that plan; the test and interview were just too tough to crack.

Joining the Congress was easier, but only just—his local rivals were dead set against his entering, but a few local satraps helped him win the confidence of the High Command. Sonia and Rahul had taken the place of Modi in his canon of eulogy.

A politician who takes frequent breaks from public life to focus on his business interests, Abdullakutty is a rare bird for many in Kerala. Now he champions rapid industrialisation against all ecological concerns, chronic capitalism against the interest of farmers and workers, and great focus on infrastructural development without spending too much time on its social cost.

In his decade-plus stopover with the Congress, he faced many allegations involving scandals and financial misappropriations. But Abdullakutty survived every allegation and kept himself afloat. And at the right moment, he took out the Modi card to ensure for himself a suitable rehabilitation in the Sangh Parivar.

With hardly anybody in his list of followers, he may soon turn liability for the BJP as he did for the Communists and Congress in the past. But the RSS must hope his name, faith and profession will do wonders for them in Kerala, the last fortress of anti-BJP forces.