With his party focusing on the south for gaining more seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP president Amit Shah on Monday appointed P S Sreedharan Pillai as the new chief of the party’s Kerala unit.
He also announced Rajya Sabha MP V Muraleedharan as in-charge of Andhra Pradesh and Sunil Deodhar, who played a key role in the party’s campaign in Tripura, as co-in charge in Andhra Pradesh.
In order to address the growing concern in the party that it does not have many Dalit faces in the organisation, Shah appointed Dushyant Kumar Gautam, former head of Scheduled Castes morcha head, as national vice-president of the BJP.
The appointment order released by general secretary in-charge of organisation Arun Singh also said Deodhar and Satya Kumar, who was working as OSD to Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu till he took up the new post, will be national secretaries of the organisation.
Deodhar’s appointment is seen as a reward for his work for the party in Tripura, where the BJP ended a decades-long CPM rule.
However, of late, ties between Deodhar and Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb have soured with the latter complaining to the national leadership that Deodhar had started creating trouble for him.
Pillai’s appointment came almost two months after former Kerala unit chief Kummanam Rajasekharan was appointed governor of Mizoram. Pillai had led the BJP in Kerala from 2003 to 2006.
The appointment of Pillai, a moderate face of Hindutva in the state, as state president ahead of Lok Sabha elections indicates that the party does not want to push its hardliner face in Kerala.
Party sources said that the BJP leadership had received feedback from both the RSS and the state unit that it cannot have the hardline Hindutva ideology in the state and it would have to take along the Christian minority along to make electoral gains.
Pillai is considered to be close to the Church in the state.