Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?

Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?
Photo: Manorama
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Legend is, BJP national president and Union home minister Amit Shah is so omnipotent that there is nothing he cannot do. Truth is, BJP's all-powerful man has still not been able to pick a president for the Kerala unit of the party.

BJP in Kerala seems like a riddle even Amit Shah has not been able to crack. A senior BJP leader, who is annoyed at the “aimless headless drift” of the party at the moment, objects to likening the state unit to a riddle.

“To think of the state BJP unit as a riddle that Amit Shah is trying hard to solve would be to attach undue importance to the unit. I would say the Kerala unit is such a pathetic mess that Shah has ceased to bother. He has other important things to do,” the BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.

Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?
PS Sreedharan Pillai

It was on October 25 that P S Sreedharan Pillai was appointed as governor of Mizoram. Ever since, for more than a month, the post of the BJP state president has been lying vacant.

This is not unprecedented. When Pillai took over as the BJP state president from Kummanam Rajasekharan in 2018, the post had remained orphaned for nearly two months.

Then, like a cryptologist who never gives up, Shah had done all he can to pick a candidate. He even carried out a survey within the state unit to find the most acceptable person. This time it is as if he wants to see how bad things could get as if he is enjoying the rot.

Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?
Amit Shah

Reserved for the purebred

The BJP state unit is a badly divided unit but what stands in the way of picking a new state president is not infighting but Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). “The RSS wants a purebred as the state chief, someone who was with the RSS right from his formative years and not someone who broke into the BJP through the ABVP,” a leading RSS pracharak said.

Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?
K Surendran

Of course, the two prominent groups have put up their own candidates for the post; the V Muraleedharan faction backs K Surendran and the PK Krishnadas faction is for M T Ramesh.

But this is nothing more than ritual posturing. The Krishnadas faction knows that Surendran stands a far better chance than Ramesh. The Krishnadas faction leaders agree that the police harassment Surendran had to suffer during the Sabarimala agitation had improved his stock, and he also has the combative edge that Amit Shah values.

Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?
MT Ramesh. Photo: Manorama

Thirst for revenge

Problem is, the RSS wants former BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan back in the saddle. For the RSS, Surendran is too callow to take on the responsibility. The RSS is not impressed by Surendran's supposed Sabarimala heroics. The Sangh is of the opinion that Surendran's protests inside the shrine had pushed the situation to near-anarchy. “The RSS had to despatch a strong and respected leader like Valsan Thillenkery to Sabarimala to salvage the mess Surendran had created,” the RSS pracharak said.

Also, the RSS has still not been able to forgive the Muraleedharan camp for what its leaders term the “backstabbing” of Kummanan Rajasekharan. Kummanam was packed off most unceremoniously to Mizoram in the middle of the Chengannur byelection campaign. The RSS wants Kummanam back as reparation for an earlier wrong. It looks certain that the RSS will not give in to the demand of the Muraleedharan faction.

Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?
Kummanam Rajasekharan

Kummanam not leader enough

Sources say, Amit Shah, though willing to accommodate RSS concerns, is not enthusiastic about Kummanam. Shah is of the opinion that Kummanam had failed to rein in factionalism within the state unit during his last tenure. Shah also does not rate Kummanam's leadership highly.

Kummanam was shown scant respect by the rival factions in the party, and at times the leaders of these groups, including V Muraleedharan, had boycotted the meetings he had convened.

Given Shah's imposing stature, the RSS might be forced to offer an alternative to Kummanam. Valsan Thillenkery, who is revered by the RSS ranks, is high on the list. Thillenkery is but an accused in a murder case and is known to have made speeches extolling murders.

Importance of RSS

Amit Shah cannot brush aside the RSS as if the organisation was some minor irritant. “In Kerala, the BJP does not have a cadre of its own. For it to function effectively in Kerala, it has no choice but to depend on the RSS,” a top BJP leader said.

Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?
O Rajagopal

Whenever the RSS was miffed, the BJP had suffered. BJP candidate S Suresh's poor showing during the recent byelection in Vattiyoorkavu is a case in point. In 2005, the BJP had fielded C K Padmanabhan, a candidate the RSS detested, for the byelections to the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha polls. It was a paltry 36,000 votes that Padmanabhan could garner.

Just a year ago, in 2014, BJP's O Rajagopal had cornered 2.29 lakh votes in the very same constituency. Padmanabhan's tally was considerably less than what even the first BJP candidate in the constituency (P Asok Kumar) won in 1989.

Analysis | Why new president for Kerala BJP is mission impossible for Amit Shah?

Brain dead?

The continued absence of a state president is also hurting the BJP politically. The party has not been able to take a stand on any of the major issues that had rocked the state recently. Be it the marks scandal or the state's fiscal crisis or even the concerns related to Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), the state unit has not been able to formulate a coherent political strategy.

“Our organisational structure gives the president sweeping powers. So it is only natural for other office-bearers to leave the decision on crucial issues to the president. The president is our brain,” a BJP leader said.

And now, it is like the Kerala BJP is brain dead.

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