Contrary to expectations, Kummanam Rajasekharan will not be the BJP candidate for the byelections in Thiruvananthapuram. The BJP Thiruvananthapuram district president S Suresh, a relatively fresh and young face, has instead been chosen. Otherwise, no major surprises are expected in the BJP list for the by-elections.
K Surendran, who had doubled BJP's vote share in Pathanamthitta in the last Lok Sabha polls, will be the party's candidate in Konni. Surendran was initially reluctant but yielded when the party insisted.
The BJP's Ernakulam mandalam president C G Rajagopal will be the party's face in Ernakulam. Yuva Morcha state president Prakash Babu, who was the BJP candidate in Kozhikode in the last Lok Sabha polls, will fight in Aroor. In Majeswaram, it will be Ravisha Thanthri Kuntar. Kuntar had given Muslim League's N A Nellikkunnu a tough fight in Kasaragod in the 2016 assembly polls.
Kummanam's replacement has come as a surprise even for party workers. It was only the other day that the party veteran, O Rajagopal, had emphatically stated that Kummanam would fight the byelections. Even Kummanam had on Sunday morning told the media that he was willing to take up any responsibility given to him by the party. It was read as his readiness to fight the polls.
However, a quick tactical reassessment done by the central leadership found less merit in having Kummanam fight a byelection. “He will be the party's trump card in the 2021 assembly polls,” a top BJP leader told Onmanorama. “He cannot be wasted in a by-poll that comes close after the Lok Sabha polls that gave him a shock defeat. At the moment, the party feels that it does not have a solid issue to give a good fight,” the leader said.
At the same time, the central leadership also wants more exposure for younger district-level leaders. “A by-election is where a candidate gets more public attention than in a general election. So it was felt that this was the time to give a younger less-known district leader a pan-Kerala visibility,” the leader said.
Significantly, this was an argument put forward by Suresh when he pitched for his candidature in the party. It was argued that leaders like O Rajagopal and Kummanam became popular only after they had contested innumerable elections.
After Kummanam was strategically kept out, the choice was between two young candidates: S Suresh and V V Rajesh. What tipped the scales in favour of Suresh was that he was not identified with any particular group within the state unit of the party. It was also felt that Suresh, with his intimate knowledge of issues in Thiruvananthapuram, can more effectively take on mayor V K Prasanth. On his liability side was the charge that he had failed to rein in factionalism in the Thiruvananthauram unit of the BJP.
However, Rajesh was a known V Muraleedharan lieutenant. He also had disciplinary action slapped on him in 2017 for alleged irregular activities. The central leadership was also not keen on Rajesh.
Kummanam, too, is said to have thrown his weight behind Suresh. “The party has picked a qualified candidate for Vattiyoorkavu,” Kummanam told reporters. “I will do all that is possible to ensure Suresh's victory,” he added.
The choice of Surendran is a sign that the BJP wants to stoke the Sabarimala emotions once again. Though he had come third in Pathanamthitta, it was Surendran who led in the Konni segment.