The sudden shift of BJP Kerala unit chief Kummanam Rajasekharan to the Raj Bhavan in Mizoram sends out a clear signal - the saffron party does not expect any magic from the loyal RSS worker who landed the crucial political job ahead of the 2016 assembly polls as unexpected as his exit.
The appointment of Kummanam as Mizoram governor makes it clear that the BJP top brass wants someone else to manage the party affairs in Kerala, obviously someone who is stronger and aggressive. However, the timing of the transfer leaves one perplexed as the party president signed the appointment order almost on the eve of the Chengannur assembly bypoll.
The bypoll is largely viewed as a litmus test for the BJP after its candidate Sreedharan Pillai had amassed a stunning 42,682 votes in the 2016 assembly election. This was only 2,215 votes less than what Congress' P C Vishnunath could get - 44,897. CPM's K K Ramachandran Nair won the election after garnering 52,880 votes.
Now, Pillai is aiming nothing short of a victory in the bypoll necessitated by the sudden demise of Nair. The party's campaign blitzkrieg has been as charged as that of the rival fronts in the constituency. It also exudes confidence of bettering the performance and emerging victorious. A victory in Chengannur means a colourful feather on the cap of Kummanam and an approval for his ability to lead the party in the coming general elections too. But his sudden elevation to the gubernatorial post, a euphemism for political farewell in the Indian context, signals that all is not well for the party in Chengannur.
Sources, who have been following electioneering in Chengannur, say that the BJP has lost its initial momentum and is unlikely to repeat its 2016 show. BJP's election machinery this time doesn't seem to enjoy the support of several factors that helped it last time, including the help of ally BDJS. If the party is sensing an embarrassment in Chengannur then the decision to appoint Kummanam to the top constitutional post needs to be looked up on as nothing but Amit Shah's decision to pack off a dead wood. However, even when doing so, the party ensures that his services remain available for it forever. The BJP's aim of a Congress-mukt Northeast will be achieved only if it stops the later from coming to power in the hill state. And the saffron party needs a loyalist at the top post of governor in case of a crisis post elections.
With this honour for Kummanam, the BJP leadership probably intends to convey to the people of Kerala as well its own cadre that the party will give due recognition to the state and it functionaries, irrespective of its electoral returns. Party veteran O Rajagopal was made a minister of state in the AB Vajpayee administration and recently retired bureaucrat Alphons Kannanthanam was inducted into the Narendra Modi government as another junior minister.
Even when bringing an end to Kummanam's political services in Kerala, the BJP seems to make some political mileage with its timing. Now, the entire political discourse in Kerala and poll-bound Chengannur has once again centred around the BJP and its political strategies. The party will also project a win in Chengannur as a decent farewell to Kummanam, known for his amiable personality that is perceived to be appealing to all sections of society. Such a campaign would aim to win over the support of a set of uncommitted voters who are potential supporters of the Hindutva ideology which ultimately Kummanam represents. However, it seems to be a tough bet at this point of time when Chengannur seems to have made up its mind already.
Read more: Chengannur bypoll