By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The ‘Congressisation’ of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kerala is complete! That is the unmistakable conclusion emerging from the fierce factional fleud that marred the finalisation of the list of party candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. Such infighting is unheard of in a cadre-party like the BJP. Needless to say, the internecine group rivalry has left a trail of bitterness.
The most sought after seat was Pathanamthitta, the district in which Sabarimala is located. There were many aspirants for the seat. Among them was BJP state chief P S Sreedharan Pillai, who contended that he had the best credentials for the ticket. He was the state party’s president. Besides, he has an excellent rapport with the powerful Nair Service Society (NSSP), which wields considerable influence among the Hindu, especially Nair votes in the constituency. At one stage it appeared that Pillai had the go-ahead signal from the central leadership as well.
Then came the twist in the tale. BJP state general secretary K. Surendran, a strong contender for the seat, suddenly came into the reckoning, thanks to the solid support of the RSS lobby. Surendran is the best candidate, having spearheaded the Sabarimala agitation. He even went to jail in furthering the cause. So went the RSS reasoning. Pillai, till then the front-runner, suddenly found himself being sidelined.
A fuming BJP state chief did not make any secret of his resentment. He lost no time in voicing his displeasure at being dropped like a hot potato after being considered for the seat. Of course, it is a different story that he had to eat humble pie as the RSS leadership and the central BJP leaders wanted him to drop out of the race, making way for K. Surendran, who belongs to the dominant V. Muralidharan faction in the state unit. The whole episode has had a demoralising effect on the party’s rank and file. And reports have it that the resentment may get reflected in the voting pattern. It also remains to be seen whether Surendran will get the kind of NSS support Pillai would have secured.
Another candidate who had to settle for a constituency other than the one she wanted is Shobha Surendran. Shobha was keen on contesting from Palakkad, her home turf. But the RSS leadership thought otherwise. Their candidate was another senior local leader Krishna Kumar. So a reluctant Shobha had to settle for Attingal, a territory totally unfamiliar to her.
The only seat which saw a smooth announcement of the candidate was Thiruvananthapuram. Former Mizoram Governor and a blue-eyed-boy of the State RSS, Kummanam Rajashekharan, will contest from the Kerala capital.
Other prominent BJP leaders who have entered the fray are BJP state general secretary, A N Radhakrishnan (Chalakkudy) and Union Minister Alphons Kannamthanam (Ernakulam).
Tom Vadakkan, the Congress spokesman who joined the BJP recently has not been given the ticket. Vadakkan was keen on contesting either from Thrissur or Ernakulam. But that was not to be.
The most significant feature of the candidate selection process this time has been the total sidelining of the BJP state leadership. The State leadership hasd the mortification of seeing their list completely changed. And the ultimate humiliation was the denial of ticket to the party’s state president himself. The supporters of Sreedharan Pillai are understandably unhappy about the shabby deal meted out to their leader. This is bound to cast a shadow on the prospects of Surendran from Pathanamthitta, it is being pointed out.
A not so surprising development has been the firm say the State RSS leadership has had on the candidate selection. The RSS had its way when its protégé Kummanam was chosen for Thiruvananthapuram. Similarly, Surendran, another RSS favourite, managed to edge out Sreedhara Pillai for the Pathanamthitta seat.
In other words, the two seats which the BJP is ‘hoping of’ winning – Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta – have gone to the RSS nominees. The domination of the RSS is complete to the chagrin of the state BJP leadership which is smarting under the humiliation.
Another point of interest is whether the BJP will take over the Wayanad seat from its ally, the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena(BDJS) if Congress president Rahul Gandhi decides to try his luck from Wayanad. A final decision on Rahul’s candidature ia expected any time. And Should Rahul throw his hat in the Wayanad ring, then the BJP may field a very senior and strong candidate to oppose the Congress president.
Although the BJP is contesting from 13 seats in the state, it is hopeful of winning only two: Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta. Both the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front and the Congress-headed United Democratic Front(UDF) are hell-bent upon denying the BJP the pleasure of opening the party’s Lok Sabha account from Kerala. (IPA Service)