Monday, Aug 08, 2022

Who Is In The Driver’s Seat? Kerala’s BJP Unit Or Central Leadership?

RSS ideologue R Balashankar’s ire against the state leadership was evident when he made scathing remarks against them for playing a role in scuttling his chances of contesting from Chengannur.

Representational image. PTI

With the Assembly polls just weeks away, it has now become quite clear that all is not well between the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) central leadership and the Kerala unit.

The strife within the party ranks was out in the open on Tuesday when RSS ideologue R Balashankar lashed out at the state leaders for denying him a ticket in the upcoming election. The senior leader was upset with the party for not considering him for the Chengannur seat, which he has been keenly pursuing since the election dates were announced. 

The central leadership has announced BJP district president and NDA candidate M V Gopakumar for Chengannur in the 112-candidate list, which was released in Delhi on Sunday.

Balashankar's allegations have put the state leadership in a tight spot too. Reacting to the RSS leader's claims, senior BJP leader and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedhan said that Balashankar is disappointed for not getting the seat and it was only an emotional outburst.

For many, the news of Balashankar not contesting from Chengannur came as a surprise, given his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other central leaders. He was also the former editor of RSS mouthpiece ‘Organiser’.  Squarely putting the blame on the state unit, the RSS leader also implied that his name didn’t figure despite the blessing of top leaders such as Union home minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

His ire against the state leadership was evident when he made scathing remarks against them for playing a role in scuttling his chances of contesting from Chengannur. R Balashankar’s name has been doing the rounds since the election dates were announced, and he had already started leg work in the constituency.  

Balashankar has also leveled serious allegations against BJP’s state president K Surendran and minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan for colluding with the CPI (M) in certain seats.

He also claimed that the state BJP had entered into a secret pact with the CPI (M) at least in two seats, an allegation, vehemently rejected by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday.

He also claimed that he was denied the Chengannur seat despite garnering support from minority groups such as Orthodox Church leaders and other minority communities.

Recently the Malankara Orthodox Church extended support to Balashankar after he made interventions to stop the demolition of an old church in Cheppad in Alappuzha district.

However, local BJP leaders told Outlook that Balashankar was away from Kerala’s political landscape for a long time and has been more active in Delhi’s power corridors.

Though he hails from Chengannur, the leader is not known to even locals in the constituency. The local leader also says that the central leadership must have taken that into consideration while deciding the candidate.   

R Balashankar’s outburst raises questions about whether it’s the state leadership or the BJP central leadership which is in the driving seat. R Balashankar is not the first one to express the grouse against the state leadership. 

The rebellion had been brewing within the party ever since the candidate list for Assembly was released on Sunday and the infighting within the party has come out in the open on many occasions.

Though the party has named senior leader Sobha Surendran from Kazhakoottam on Wednesday, her name didn’t figure on the Sunday list. It was learned that the central leadership was keen on fielding Sobha Surendran, however, the state leadership prevailed over the top leadership.

Sobha Surendran was reportedly miffed at the omission and had also made sarcastic remarks about the party president contesting from two seats. Sources said that the central leadership had to exert its influence to include Sobha Surendran in the final list that came out on Wednesday.

Sobha Surendran has been at loggerheads with party president K Surendran for quite some time over leadership issues in the party.

In an interview with Outlook recently, she said that she had conveyed her concerns to the central leadership and party president J P Nadda has taken a considerate stand.

The central leadership also faced set back after a tribal activist refused to contest from BJP ticket from Mananthawady, a reserved seat for the scheduled tribe in Wayanad district. The rejection came immediately after the central leaders released the list in Delhi on Sunday.