By: P. Sreekumaran
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kerala has been sent into a tizzy by RSS ideologue and former editor of Organiser, R Balashankar, who accused the party of reaching a tacit understanding with the CPI(M) to ensure the victory of party’s state president K. Surendran in Konni Assembly constituency.
Balashankar’s body blow to the BJP came following the party’s denial of a ticket to him from the Chengannur constituency. Denial of a ticket to him was bad enough. The BJP compounded the offence by fielding weak candidates both in Aranmula and Chengannur, considered class constituencies of the BJP. The RSS ideologue doubted that the State leadership had entered into a deal with the CPI(M) to ensure Surendran’s victory in Konni. The quid pro quo is the fielding weak candidates in Chengannur and Aranmula which ensures that CPI(M) wins in these two seats.
Balashankar said he was sure of winning from Chengannur as he had enlisted the support of all leading communities, including Christians, Nairs and Ezhavas. He claimed that he had maintained good relations with the three communities which together constitute 75 per cent of the Chengannur electorate. The BJP’s national leadership, he said, had given him the green signal. He had also informed BJP State president K. Surendran well in advance of the declaration of elections. The Orthodox Christian faction had favoured him, thanks to his effective intervention to declare Cheppad St. George Church as an archaeological monument. The Nair Service Society(NSS) and the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangham (SNDP) had also extended support to him, Balashankar claimed.
The former editor of Organiser turned a scathing tongue against the leadership of the BJP in Kerala. The party in the State is being run by a mafia and it cannot dream of winning the State for the next 30 years if it continues with the present leadership. Surendran’s insistence on contesting from Konni apart from Manjeswaram was mystifying. If he had been given the ticket, Balashankar said he would have won from Chengannur. And a victory in central Kerala would have given a big boost to the BJP’s efforts to expand its area of influence in the State known for its strong secular foundations, Balashankar averred.
RSS Pranta Karyavah Gopalankutty, however, said he was not aware of any discussion to field Balashankar from Chengannur, adding that it is the BJP leadership which decides the candidates and the RSS supports the candidates fielded by the party. Union Minister V Muraleedharan muddied the waters further by saying that Balashankar had no role in Kerala politics! Balashankar countered Muraleedharan, saying that he had informed the Union Minister about his wish to contest from Chengannur. He said he reached Chengannur after discussions with leaders of the BJP and the RSS. “Kerala is not the exclusive property of anyone to say that I have no role here. Not even Pinarayi Vijayan will say that,” Balashankar retorted.
In a prompt response, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan scorned Balashankar’s allegation, saying that the CPI(M) would never join hands with communal organizations for electoral gains. However, his allegation of the BJP being run by a mafia could well be true, Vijayan said. Vijayan also came down heavily on the Congress. It was the Congress which helped the BJP to open its account in Kerala Assembly by transferring its votes to BJP candidate O. Rajagopal in Nemom constituency in Thiruvananthapuram district in the 2016 assembly election, the Chief Minister pointed out. It was the infamous Congress-League-BJP alliance in the nineties which helped the BJP to firm up its foothold in the State, he said. Former BJP chief late K G Marar had acknowledged the alliance in his book, Vijayan said, twisting the knife in the wounds of both the Congress and the BJP.
On their part, Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala were quick to grab the opportunity to put the CPI(M) on the mat. Balashankar’s revelations, they said, have proved their allegation about a CPI(M)-BJP deal to defeat the United Democratic Front(UDF) in Kerala. It must also be said that the revelations have come as a shot in the arm for the UDF, which intends to milk it for all its worth in the campaign for the assembly elections. And the Congress leaders trumpet that the issue is set to adversely impact the chances of the LDF.
Whatever the merits or demerits of Balashankar’s angry outburst, one thing can be said with certainty. It has spoiled the party of the BJP which was riding high on confidence of putting up a good show in the electoral combat. The BJP leaders of the State will have to do a lot of explaining to rebut the allegations. Senior BJP leader and the lone BJP MLA in State Assembly, O. Rajagopal has openly admitted that the Congress-League-BJP alliance was a reality. Another BJP leader MT Ramesh, who is contesting from Kozhikode North constituency, has also supported Rajagopal’s ‘candid confession’ about the infamous alliance of the nineties.
Meanwhile, the BJP has come out with its list of 115 candidates for the assembly election. The ‘highlight’ of the list is the decision of BJP state president K. Surendran to contest from two seats, Manjeswaram, where he lost by a slender margin of 89 votes in the 2016 assembly election, and Konni, the epicentre of the Sabarimala agitation. While former Mizoram Governor and former state president Kummanam Rajasekharan will be the candidate from the party’s lone sitting seat of Nemom, Metroman E Sreedharan will contest from Palakkad. Super star Suresh Gopi will try his luck from Thrissur. Another senior BJP leader, former state chief P K Krishnadas, has been fielded from Kattakkada, a constituency where the BJP has considerable influence. Former union minister Alphons Kannamthanam has entered the fray from Kanjirappalli constituency in Kottayam district. CK Padmanabhan, a former BJP state chief and a former CPI(M) leader will take on Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Dharmadom constituency.
The suspense over the candidature of senior leader Sobha Surendran, who is not on good terms with the state BJP leadership, ended with she being given the ticket from Kazhakkoottam. This is one of the high-profile constituencies which Union Minister V Muraleedharan had set his sights on. But the BJP national leadership decided that he would not contest this time. Reports have it that Sobha got the ticket following the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A senior central leader informed Sobha of the party’s decision on the direction of Modi.
The State leadership had tried its level best to deny her the ticket, and had at one stage tried to enlist Thushar Vellappally, president of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s ally, Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS). But he refused to contest. The prime ministerial intervention constitutes a rebuff to the State leadership, which strongly opposed Sobha’s candidature. It may be mentioned that the BJP had come second in Kazhakkootam in the 2016 assembly polls. The party is determined to capture the constituency this time cashing on the Sabarimala agitation. Incidentally, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran is seeking a second term from the constituency, which has hogged the headlines following the decision to field Sobha Surendran from there.
The BJP also faced protests over the candidates list. Just one instance would show the extent and scale of resentment over the list. The candidature of BJP’s Pathanamthitta district president Ashokan Kulanada had sparked off widespread protests, with as many as 10 panchayat presidents resigning from their posts. The BJP also faced acute embarrassment as many candidates announced by the leadership decided against contesting. Some of them said their candidature was announced unilaterally and without obtaining their consent!
One thing is for sure. It won’t be easy for the BJP to dismiss the allegations made by Balashankar as the ravings of a person denied a ticket to contest the election. He is too important a leader to be brushed aside just like that. Besides, the RSS ideologue is known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. L’affaire Balashankar will not die down easily. The next episode could, in all probability, unfold after the elections, deepening the BJP’s blue mood. (IPA Service)