|K Surendran, Kerala BJP president|
Surendran was functioning as general secretary of the party and had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls from Pathanamthitta last year. He proved his popularity there by winning over three lakh votes and emerging as the runner-up to Congress-UDF nominee for the seat, and edging out the LDF nominee to the third place. Later, he also contested the Konni assembly bypoll, but did not win yet again. He narrowly lost an assembly election from Manjeswaram in Kasaragod district in the 2016 polls. He lost by less than 90 votes.
Surendran told the media that he, as party chief, would carry the state party together. The style of the party was to take collective decisions and unitedly march forward. This style will continue, he said.
Surendran is having a reputation for high-voltage action, as he has exhibited repeatedly, including in the Sabarimala agitation in 2018-end Mandala Pooja Makaravillakku season. He was at the head of the aggressive BJP-Sangh Parivar-led campaign against women entry in Sabarimala, following a ruling by the Supreme Court that women of all ages could visit Sabarimala and offer prayers at the hill-top Dharma Sastha (Lord Ayyappa) temple.
The state party was rudderless after Advocate Sreedharan Pillai left for Mizoram. The party was headed before Pillai’s period by veteran and highly respected Kummanam Rajasekharan, 67, who kept himself out of group politics and maintained high dignity in public life.
Another name that was in circulation for the state BJP chief post was of Shobha Surendran. Also a fire-brand party leader, Shoba hails from Palakkad. She stood for LS polls from Attingal constituency, but lost to the UDF. Expectations were that if the BJP chooses a woman leader for the party in any of the southern state, Shobha stood a chance. Tamil Nadu had a woman as state BJP chief, and she was later given a governor post. Shobha is an Ezhava, and so is K Surendran.
Also, the other names in circulation in included that of MT Ramesh, who is also a senior leader of the party identified with the PK Krishnadas group.
BJP BASE IN KERALA
The BJP, or its previous avataar the Jan Sangh, never had any strong ground in Kerala, which remained under the sway of the Communists and also of communalists in the form of Kerala Congress and Muslim League under the UDF arrangement for several decades.
The first time the BJP started acquiring a mass base was when a strong organisational hand like V Muraleedharan was airlifted from Delhi to be the BJP state president. This happened at a time when rival groups in the state party were fighting for supremacy. Muraleedharan, who worked for the ABVP in Mumbai on deputation from Kerala, had later been functioning as head of the central government-run Nehru Yuva Kendra when the Vajpayee government was in power. Muraleedharan tried to change the complexion of the state party and started reaching out to backward communities, the Dalits etc.
Murali too faced intense inner party personality feuds, with those like PK Krishnadas making life miserable for him. Yet, he managed to achieve his aim of broad-basing the party’s rank and file. Today, a substantial section of educated Ezhavas are with the BJP. So with the Dalits too, who are increasingly taking a fancy to the BJP.
Kummanam Rajasekharan’s stewardship of the party — after Muraleedharan left Kerala leadership and was sent to Parliament from Maharashtra assembly –too witnessed groupism, though he tried to rise above such tendencies. As party chief, Sreedharan Pillai too drew sharp criticism for some of his actions, inactions, and words while as president.
AMIT SHAH, MOHAN BHAGWAT VISIT
Top BJP and RSS leaders will be in Kerala later this month to attend a BJP-RSS event. RSS, which traditionally has a large network in Kerala, is ably backing the BJP emerge as a strong political entity. The two leaders are expected to take stock of the situation in the state, and might also use the occasion to meet some prominent community leaders.
The BJP believes that Hindu unity in Kerala is important also as some 45 per cent of the population comprised minorities. Their collective backing for the Congress-led UDF in the LS polls hurt both the LDF and the BJP-led NDA immensely.
The UDF had skillfully turned the campaign into an anti-Modi, pro-Rahul gala event, a bait to woo both the Muslims and the pro-Sonia Christians. The candidature of Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad helped push this campaign. The church, among several other vested interests, had played an indirect role in keeping alive the Sonia Gandhi era in India. Several politicians Sonia Gandhi relied on in her inner circle were Christians from the Congress ranks from Kerala. This included the likes of AK Antony, PJ Kurien, PC Chacko, KV Thomas etc.
The church allegedly sought to play games even at the judiciary level, and some names are openly under discussion. — IHN-NN