Before the real electoral battle begins, the BJP is suddenly faced with battles within itself in Kerala. In a state where it has never won a seat, its hopes of opening its account have been set back by dissent over selection of candidates, and other issues. The factional feud has broken ahead of seat-sharing discussions with the SNDP-backed Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) this weekend.
The state leadership’s steps towards allocating certain constituencies in Thiruvananthapuram without consultations has irked a section of leaders who are grumbling that it is trying to “impose leaders from the Malabar lobby” — as those from North Kerala are called — in seats where the BJP feels its prospects are brightest.
At least three leaders familiar with developments in the Kerala BJP said that Kummanam Rajasekharan’s appointment as the state party chief, which was expected to end groupism, has in fact intensified the war within and weakened the party. “The BJP is no longer making any political intervention in the state. It has failed to raise any major issues against the state government or the Opposition that triggered a debate,” said a party leader. “One major reason is lack of unity among the state leaders.
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After the appointment of Rajasekharan in December, the RSS had convened a meeting of Sangh affiliates and BJP office-bearers in Kochi for discussing an election strategy. The BJP office-bearers who attended the meeting reportedly decided among themselves that they would not speak. The Sangh leadership sensed there was disenchantment and is said to have advised the BJP leadership not to make changes in the state organisation.
Some state leaders feel that Kummanam has not been able to exercise the BJP’s dominance in its alliance with the BDJS or its leader Vellapally Nadesan. When he began his Kerala Vimochana Yatra, Kummanam invited Vellapally but he has declined to attend any programme, including the concluding rally on February 11 that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to address. In contrast, leaders from both the RSS and the BJP had attended a rally at the end of Vellapally’s statewide yatra on December 5.
“Vellappally is playing the boss now whereas the BJP should have been dictating terms,” said a party leader. They have reservations also about the party’s decision to allot 66 seats to BJDS, which the SNDP will share with smaller groups such as Kerala Pulaya Mahasabha and Vishwakarma Sabha, which have come together.
Now plans for distribution of seats have upset disgruntled leaders further. While Kummanam appears likely to contest from Nemam in Thiruvananthapuram, there have been moves to distribute seats in the district among leaders such as M T Ramesh, P K Krishnadas and V Muralidharan – all of the northern districts.
“Why should the seats in Thiruvananthapuram, where the BJP has bright prospects, be given only to those who are from the northern districts? It is an attempt put the party into the hands of Malabar lobby. We will not work wholeheartedly if local candidatesare not given a chance,” said a party leader. Sources said the miffed leaders have decided to raise the matter in the next core committee meeting expected on February 17.