The infighting in the state unit of BJP has turned so bad that it is not just former BJP organising secretary P P Mukundan who is thinking of contesting as rebel. The BJP spokesperson and one of its senior leaders M S Kumar, who has now been served a show-cause notice, may enter the fray as a rebel BJP candidate if party president P Sreedharan Pillai decides to contest from Thiruvananthapuram.
Even if rebel candidates are eventually not put up, faction leaders have decided that both the Congress and CPM votes would be sought to defeat candidates from the other faction. The V Muralidharan faction has sworn to defeat P Krishnadas if he is the BJP's Attingal candidate. It is said that Krishnadas was instrumental in scuppering V Muralidharan's chances in Kazhakoottam Assembly where he came a close second during the 2016 polls.
Faction meetings have become a common occurrence across the state. The situation is so fluid that second-rung leaders switch sides on a daily basis. For instance, till the other day M T Ramesh was believed to be with the third group led by P S Sreedharan Pillai. Now he has spoken against Pillai in the 'candidate list' controversy. At the moment, the BJP machinery is malfunctioning big time that there is utter confusion even as to who is opposing whom. It is a farce inside the BJP, as chaotic as the comic set pieces in a Charlie Chaplin movie.
To make matters worse, the wily P P Mukundan, who has been kept at a distance by the senior BJP leaders, has already led several round of discussions with BJP workers in the most winnable constituency for the BJP in the state, Thiruvananthapuram. Now many local BJP workers in Thiruvananthapuram say that it is “Mukundettan” who calls the shots. Mukundan told Onmanorama that he had held talks “with a vast section of voters in Thiruvananthapuram”.
Fratricide in BJP
Factionalism had shuddered so out of control that even the BJP national organising secretary B L Santhosh, instead of taming the groups, was found pitting one group against the other. Both Santhosh and H Raja, the national secretary in charge of Kerala, had to be withdrawn from Kerala. Yet another sign that factionalism was raging uncontrollably was the fact that it took over three months to find a replacement for Kummanam Rajasekharan as BJP's state chief.
P S Sreedharan Pillai, who was then untainted by factionalism, was brought in as a compromise candidate. However, his handling of the Sabarimala agitation, especially the “golden opportunity” goof up and the later decision to shift the Sabarimala stir from Sannidhanam to Thiruvananthapuram, was widely disapproved of within the party. The frequent calls for hartals harmed his public image, too.
Pillai's big fall
It was the Muralidharan faction that made life especially difficult for him. They had made their displeasure felt very public, mostly by boycotting the meetings called by him. The faction even forced him to swallow his own words on the Lok Sabha candidate list. Pillai told the media that the list was ready but when faction leaders revolted, he backtracked.
The miserable showing of the BJP in the recently concluded by-elections to 30 local body seats did not do Pillai any favour either. The party lost sitting seats in Kasaragod and Thrissur, and here is the crucial point: the elections had come after the Sabarimala controversy erupted. It looked as if Pillai had wasted his “golden opportunity”.
The clamour to bring Kummanam Rajasekharan, now Mizoram governor, back to the state is seen as an attempt to further undermine Pillai's authority. Strangely, both Krishnadas and Muralidharan are united in wanting Kummanam to return. There is an irony here. The RSS has still not forgiven Muralidharan for the role he played in parcelling Kummanam out of the state.
The 'We Want Kummanam' movement caused a major explosion within the party when M S Kumar stated that party workers were of the opinion that Kummanam should quit his governor's post and contest from Thiruvananthapuram. The demand so enraged Pillai that he served Kumar a show-cause notice.
This attempt to reassert his authority, too, seems to have backfired. The move was widely condemned within the party. “No BJP leader had to resort to such a public show of anger. This betrayed a weakness,” a senior faction leader told Onmanorama. “After all, Kumar was stating an opinion. The BJP offers enough democratic space to its workers to speak their mind,” he added.
Million elephant-sized egos
It is not any ideological battle that has triggered this self-destructive spree. “This is plain ego. All the main leaders of the party want to contest. They are so power hungry that they have vetoed the RSS plan to have independents with wider public acceptance to contest in at least some of the seats to take advantage of the pro-faith sentiment in the state,” said a BJP functionary and RSS pracharak who is now in the party's ideology cell.