After realising that the absence of a credible face in the run-up to the Delhi polls cost it dear, the BJP has started sprucing up its state units, appointing new party presidents in three states on Saturday and effecting half a dozen changes in last three days. On Saturday, the BJP appointed Khajuraho MP Vishnu Dutt Sharma as its new state chief in Madhya Pradesh, replacing incumbent chief Rakesh Singh, an MP from Jabalpur who was the trusted lieutenant of Home Minister Amit Shah. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) retained power in Delhi after a bitterly fought election, but quite easily in the end, becoming a rare incumbent to hold its vote share from one landslide election (the party’s share in 2015 was 54.3% and it is around 53.5% this time) to the next. Indeed, the most recent parallel would perhaps be the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) performance in the 2019 national elections, where it bettered its 2014 vote share of 31% by around six percentage points.
Sure, the BJP also managed to increase its seat share, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won 62 of the 70 seats in the Delhi assembly this time, as compared to 67 last time. Earlier, there was speculation that Singh, the party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha in 2016, could get an extension to his term as BJP chief of Madhya Pradesh. Sharma, a leader with deep RSS roots, is the man behind the emergence of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the RSS students’ wing, as a prominent organisation in Madhya Pradesh in the 90s, when BJP’s Sunderlal Patwa was the chief minister. Sharma is second person from the Brahmin community to receive a key post, after another leader with deep RSS roots, Gopal Bhargava, was picked up as Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly in January 2019. The new state chief is also considered close to the national president JP Nadda. They have worked together in the ABVP as well as the BJYM. Nadda’s wife Mallika, who hails from Jabalpur, was also ABVP office-bearer in the Madhya Pradesh unit along with VD Sharma. K Surendran, who had spearheaded the agitation of BJP on Sabarimala in Kerala, has been appointed as the new president of the BJP in the state.
P S Sreedharan Pillai held the post before Surendran. Pillai was appointed as Mizoram Governor in October last year. Surendran, shot to fame after the Sabarimala agitation fetched substantial returns in terms of voter percentage in Kerala, which has never been a BJP bastion. Party sources said that at present, the conditions were quite favourable for BJP’s growth in Kerala in the backdrop of the CAA issue. Hence Surendran might be able to cash in on the opportunity for Hindu vote consolidation in the upcoming local body elections and the Assembly polls next year. In Sikkim, Dal Bahadur Chauhan was appointed head of the BJP unit. On Thursday, the saffron party also announced a full term to its Maharashtra unit chief Chandrakant Dada Patil and Mangal Prabhat Lodha as BJP Mumbai chief, formalizing their leadership role in the state it just months ago.