Mission Kerala on its mind, BJP gears up for Chengannur bypoll

Amit Shah has given each state leader the charge of two Panchayats in Chengannur constituency and each state core group member has been asked to supervise two panchayats.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: March 11, 2018 12:07:48 pm
Kerala, Chengannur bypoll, Chengannur elections, BJP, CPM Chengannur, Indian express Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and BJP chief Amit Shah.

Upbeat over its “ideological victory over Communists” in Tripura, the BJP has a grand plan for Kerala, the only CPM-ruled state in the country. With party chief Amit Shah urging partymen to focus on the upcoming Assembly by-election in Chengannur, where he wants the party to clinch a victory symbolising its emergence in Kerala, the BJP is set to launch its Kerala Mission, sources said.

The party leadership is exploring ways to make the NDA in the state more cohesive — this could include offering a Rajya Sabha seat to an ally, besides positions in boards and corporations for them. In order to make the party more combative and a formidable force in the state, the party leadership has been approaching experienced and popular faces of Opposition parties to induct them, sources said.

According to a BJP source, a suggestion has come from some quarters that the BJP would have to placate its ally Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) ahead of Chengannur, where a by-election has been necessitated by the death of CPM legislator K K Ramachandran Nair in January.

Hindus constitute nearly 67 per cent of the population in the constituency, out of which Nairs dominate and Ezhavas have a significant presence. Amid rumours that SNDP leader Tushar Vellappally could be offered a Rajya Sabha seat in the March 23 election, a senior BJP leader said: “It is just a proposal and no decision has been taken yet. But it is true that the party wants to placate the SNDP.”

BJP leaders said that a victory in Chengannur is not “impossible” if it fields a good candidate. “Since its inception, Chengannur has sent 10 Nair MLAs and four Christians to the Assembly. The BJP has already improved its ties with the Christians in the state. If we have a candidate like Sreedharan Pillai, who has good rapport with NSS (Nair Service Society), we will be on equal footing with the Congress and the Left,” senior BJP leader V Muraleedharan told The Indian Express.

Shah has given each state leader the charge of two Panchayats in Chengannur constituency and each state core group member has been asked to supervise two panchayats.

BJP sources said the party leadership would urge the government to clear appointments of members to the boards and corporations under the central government as per recommendations of NDA leaders in the state. The BJP leadership has also directed the state leaders to identify the leaders who were disillusioned with their respective leadership and could migrate to the BJP, the sources said.

“The state leadership has shortlisted some leaders with whom they had primary meetings. The leadership is keen on getting a prominent Congress leader who is experienced in handling organisation matters. Talks are on with at least three leaders,” said a source.

The BJP national leadership has been worried about the Kerala unit lacking a “prominent personality” to be projected as the party’s face in the state, a source said. “The BJP has chaal, charitra and chintan (behaviour, character and ideology) in Kerala but no chehra (face). We need to have one,” a party leader said.

The party’s performance in Chengannur will decide its future course, said the leader. Muraleedharan argued that the “overall situation” is good for the BJP in Chengannur. The by-election is expected to be held along with the assembly elections in Karnataka.

A BJP leader said, “We will move aggressively in Kerala after the Karnataka election. All these plans will be rolled out then and the state will witness flow of leaders from other parties too.”

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