Amit Shah Fails to Have His Way in Kerala

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The snub to Shah was complete when the state RSS leaders recommended the name of P S Sreedharan Pillai for the post. In view of the changed ground reality, Shah had no option but to meekly bow to the wishes of the Kerala RSS leaders. A report, for Different Truths. 

BJP president Amit Shah has failed to have his way in the appointment of the new president of the Kerala unit of the party.

The BJP chief has had to swallow a bitter pill as the state RSS leadership said a firm No to his candidate for the post, K. Surendran, one of the general secretaries of the Kerala BJP.

The snub to Shah was complete when the state RSS leaders recommended the name of P S Sreedharan Pillai for the post. In view of the changed ground reality, Shah had no option but to meekly bow to the wishes of the Kerala RSS leaders.

The Kerala RSS leadership was unhappy with Shah ever since he took a unilateral decision to have Surendran as the new Kerala chief. Amit Shah took the decision following the submission of a report by central BJP leader B L Santosh, who is in charge of the Kerala unit, recommending the appointment of K Surendran.

That decision proved Shah’s undoing. The Kerala RSS leaders took strong exception to the recommendation. Shah had incurred their displeasure as he summarily removed Kummanam Rajashekharan, a protégé of the local RSS leadership, from the Kerala BJP chief’s post and shunted him off to distant Mizoram as Governor without taking the RSS leaders in the state into confidence.

This was, of course, to facilitate the appointment of K Surendran to the post. Surendran’s name was opposed not only by the state RSS leaders but also by the faction in Kerala BJP led by former chief P K Krishnadas. This faction was keen on having M T Ramesh as the new chief.

As there was no agreement on the issue, Shah has had to appoint Sreedharan Pillai, a leader who does not belong to either of the two dominant factions. Pillai is acceptable to the Kerala RSS leaders as well.

This is Sreedharan Pillai’s second stint as the Kerala BJP president. He was the party chief way back in 2003.

Pillai, a comparatively non-controversial leader, has been assigned the tough task of reviving the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state and quelling the rampant factional feud blighting the party. A tough ask in the best of circumstances, and especially so in the state’s changed political scenario.

First and foremost, Pillai has to contend with the angry mood of the BJP’s principal ally in Kerala, the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS). BDJS is in a sullen mood because of BJP’s failure to address their concerns and concede their demands despite repeated requests. In protest against BJP’s big brother attitude, the BDJS had kept away from the NDA’s campaign in the Chengannur assembly by-election. Because of the BDJS’s non-cooperative stance, the BJP candidate, incidentally Sreedharan Pillai, saw the BJP’s vote share plummet from over 42,000 votes in the previous election to 35,000. Unless the Central leadership sympathetically considers the BDJS’s demands, the chances of its active association with BJP are remote indeed. Despite his good rapport with the BDJS leadership, Pillai will find it extremely difficult to mollify the aggrieved BDJS leadership.

The second task – of ending factionalism – is even more difficult. For instance, the faction led by V. Muraleedharan, Rajya Sabha MP and a former chief of Kerala BJP, is unhappy over the rejection of K. Surendran to the top party post. Their displeasure was evident from the boycott of the reception Sreedharan Pillai was accorded on his arrival in Kozhikode, his native place. That is a sure sign of trouble ahead for Pillai.

Incidentally, Pillai’s strength – non-allegiance to either of the groups – is his weakness as well. Since he does not have a group of his own, he will find it difficult to command the loyalty of a large section of the state BJP. Pillai’s position is akin to that of Congress leader V M Sudheeran. VM had been appointed KPCC chief with the express directive to end factionalism in the party. But since he was above group politics, Sudheeran failed to take the dominant factions along. A similar fate awaits Sreedharan Pillai.

P. Sreekumaran
©IPA Service

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