BJP's campaign machinery that slipped into a lull at Chengannur following the party's failure to gain power in Karnataka sprung to life suddenly after the announcement of the appointment of the party’s Kerala state president Kummanam Rajasekharan as Governor of Mizoram.
Party workers celebrated the elevation of the leader to the constitutional position, citing it as a mark of the importance the party-led government attaches to Kerala. They exuded hope that it will swing the chances in the by-election to the state Assembly in favour of party’s candidate PS Sreedharan Pillai.
Pillai claimed that he will win the Chengannur seat with a five-digit victory margin. Actor-turned-politician Suresh Gopi, who accompanied the candidate in the final day of the campaigning on Saturday, said Chengannur will spring a surprise this time.
Political analysts do not share the optimism. Sunnykutty Abraham, a senior political commentator based at Thiruvananthapuram, said people in the politically conscious state cannot be influenced by such token representations. What they really need is relief from the miseries caused by the policies of the government.
“The outcome of the Vengara by-election in October last year gives a clear indication of the thinking of the electorate in the state. Though BJP had gone to the poll a month after the induction of Alphonse Kannanthanam into the Narendra Modi ministry, the party candidate at Vengara did not get any benefit from it. On the contrary, the party’s position slided from third to fourth with the vote share coming down from 7,015 in 2016 to 5,728 in 2017,” he said.
Sunnykutty told Firstpost that the BJP could also not make any such gain from the elevation of senior leader O Rajagopal as minister in the Vajpayee ministry in 2003. Though he could increase his vote share in the 2004 Lok Sabha election, the party drew a blank not only in the parliamentary poll but also in the subsequent Assembly elections in 2006.
Sunnykutty, therefore, does not believe that the party’s national leadership expects any dividend from the appointment of Rajasekharan as the Mizoram governor in the by-election. He, therefore, views the appointment two days before the poll as an admission of defeat in Chengannur.
“Rajasekharan, who was a full-time RSS pracharak, was made the party president as a nominee of party’s national chief Amit Shah. Clamour for his removal from the post may grow if the party loses Chengannur. It would be difficult for BJP to rehabilitate a failed leader in such a situation. Amit Shah has avoided such an unpleasant situation by packing him off from the state before the election,” said Sunnykutty.
BJP leaders in the state view the development as part of a strategy drawn up by their party chief to equip the party to face the 2019 challenge. A senior leader said that the national leadership would undertake a massive restructuring of the party ahead of the Lok Sabha election.
The BJP leader, who did not want to be identified, said that the top leadership was not happy with the way Rajasekharan handled the party affairs and also its allies. He failed to check the inter-party and intra-party feuds in the NDA. He could not assert even when some of the allies raised a banner of revolt.
The party leadership considers the rebellion led by Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), its principal ally in the NDA, most damaging. The party has been able to increase its vote share in the Assembly election from a mere 6.03 percent in 2011 to 10.58 percent in 2016 only after BDJS joined the NDA. Party leaders believe that the BDJS decision not to cooperate with the BJP in the by-election will affect its prospects.
Rajasekharan’s detractors in the party feel that the BDJS and some other allies have been drifting away from the party because of his failure to take the alliance along as a cohesive unit. They believe that the party can be rejuvenated only by a strong leader.
Sadly, the BJP has no such leaders in the state. Most of the senior leaders of the party have already completed their stint as party president. None of them could give the party any headway in the state. The new crop of leaders like K Surendran and MT Ramesh, who are the front runners for the post, are also mired in factional politics.
Left-leaning political analyst NM Pearson said that the biggest problem that BJP faces in the state is lack of able leaders to turn the power they hold at the Centre into their advantage. The party was able to capture power in several states by poaching leaders and members from other parties with the help of the power.
“The situation in Kerala is different. All top leaders are well entrenched in the two dominant fronts led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress. They will not upset the equation unless there is a change in the perception that BJP can come to power in the state,” Pearson told Firstpost.
He said that the task would be extremely difficult after the electoral setback the BJP has suffered in Karnataka. If the alliance forged by the Congress and the Janata Dal(S) in Karnataka leads to a ‘Mahagatbhandan’ at the national level, it will make the BJP’s position shaky in the coming Lok Sabha election.
“Amit Shah is counting 12 seats from Kerala in the Lok Sabha. The party may not be able to win even one seat if the Opposition parties put up a united fight against the BJP in the coming election. The show of Opposition strength at the swearing-in-ceremony of JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy signals such a fight,” Pearson said.
BJP was playing politics outside the court in Kerala. It is not likely to enter the court in the immediate future, said Pearson.
Updated Date: May 26, 2018 16:41:29 IST