Leaders’ boycott was to protest reorganisation in state unit and national executive.
New Delhi: It has now become clear as daylight that all is not well with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala. That the problems plaguing the state unit for quite some time are far from over became evident last week when some prominent faces of the party in the state kept away from a crucial leadership meet held in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. This is despite the presence of national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh, who had come down from Delhi to oversee the proceedings. It is learnt that the leaders stayed off the meeting to register their protest over the recent reorganisation in the state unit and the national executive of the party. However, the meeting, which has the blessings of the central leadership, has reposed full faith in the leadership of the present state president K. Surendran.
State general secretary M.T. Ramesh and state vice-president A.N. Radhakrishnan, known members of the P.K. Krishnadas faction, were conspicuous by their absence in the meeting. The other prominent faction in the state unit is led by the Union minister V. Muraleedharan of which the current state party president K Surendran belongs to. Another prominent leader who did not participate in the meeting was Sobha Surendran, considered the stormy petrel within the party. Sobha, who does not belong to either of the factions but a strong critic of the state president, had been excluded from the revamped BJP national executive recently. Most of her supporters, too, abstained from the meeting. However P.K. Krishnadas attended the meeting “to convey to the national general secretary (organisation) his faction’s grievances”. Earlier, the Krishnadas faction had quit the whatsapp group of party leaders in a “symbolic” protest against the reorganisation of the state unit.
M.T. Ramesh and A.N. Radhakrishnan were among the senior leaders who were assigned to a fact-finding mission to interact with grass-roots workers and assess the reasons behind the party’s dismal show in the last Assembly elections in the state. The party had lost the lone seat it had won in a historic verdict in the 2016 elections. It is said that their ground level report was not taken into consideration by the current leadership and is gathering dust in one of the almirahs at the party headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. “Though Ramesh and Radhakrishnan were among the senior leaders who were sent on a fact-finding mission to interact with grass-roots workers following the election debacle, their feedback was not taken into account. They were also not called for any serious discussion by the state leadership,” a senior leader was quoted saying in a local daily.
But what might have hit the state unit hard was a letter, which was later leaked to the press, written by one of the most respected leaders of the BJP in the state P.P. Mukundan, who has been sidelined since his return to the party fold two years back. In the letter addressed to B.L. Santosh, Mukundan said the party had gone backwards by 15 years. He has demanded an explanation from the current bunch of leaders for the electoral failure and had asked them to “own responsibility” for the same.
“The nationalist voters and citizens of Kerala still have a ray of hope. The commitment to ideology among the rank and file remains intact. We have the biggest and the most disciplined cadre. But still we are not able to convert this to votes. We have to address this serious problem,” Mukundan wrote in his letter. While calling for a brainstorming session of the Sangh Parivar, Mukundan advised the state leadership to shed “unnecessary pride” and “Ostrich-like approach”.
“More the delay, more the damage and more the downfall,” Mukudan has warned, adding that every positive suggestion from any quarter should be welcomed. “Intolerance and threats of disciplinary action will only silence saner voices,” the former BJP general secretary (Organisation) South, warned. State party president Surendran had recently threatened to take disciplinary action against Sobha Surendran and others for criticising him. Mukundan had concluded his letter saying “Please do not hesitate to have a healthy discussion.”
Mukundan had also very rightly questioned the silence of the central leadership and its indecisive nature regarding the organisational issues of the party in Kerala. Interestingly many prominent personalities, including “Metro Man” E. Sreedharan, are said to share the opinion aired by Mukundan. Many felt that the party trying to replicate the ‘North Indian template’ won’t work in Kerala. Kerala has its own traditions and beliefs, they feel. “Comical” political gimmicks won’t work here, they say and point out BJP state president’s visit to a Bishop House the day Prime Minister Modi had an audience with Pope Francis. Surendran had called on Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis, the head of the Syro-Malabar Church, to “highlight the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Pope”. This is considered totally unnecessary and a cause of bad publicity.
Having failed to woo the majority Hindu community, the state BJP leadership in recent months has been trying its level best to be close with the Christian community in the state. This has not gone down well with the following the party has in the state. Many feel that the party made a mistake in siding with the Bishop who had warned against “narcotics Jihad” in the state and unleashed an “unnecessary” controversy.
Such actions are not going to bring the party any Christian votes, many seniors feel. But the leadership seems to ignore such sentiments. The party is preparing to launch an agitation against the state government for initiating criminal proceedings against the bishop for “hate speech”.
This is at a time when the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council and pro- church parties like the Kerala Congresses have not even made a protest statement against the government action. There lies the plight of BJP in Kerala.