Kochi: The BJP in Kerala has found itself in a moment of deja vu.
The party national leadership's decision to remove P S Sreedharan Pillai from the party president's post in Kerala and appoint him the governor of Mizoram is almost a repeat of what happened to Pillai's precursor Kummanam Rajasekharan in 2018.
Kummanam was shifted to Mizoram as governor during the campaigning for Chengannur assembly bypoll. The only difference this time is that the Amit Shah-led BJP top brass was kind enough to wait until the results of the Kerala bypolls were out.
It took months for the BJP to find a replacement for Kummanam in the brazenly factionalism-driven Kerala unit and Pillai was chosen as a consensus candidate. This time, the party is unlikely to delay the process of finding a new state president. Unless last minute surprises crop up, the party is likely to appoint K Surendran as the president of Kerala unit.
It is learnt that Surendran, known as the party's firebrand face in Kerala, is the only option before the BJP national leadership. The state unit is learnt to be of the view that a senior leader who could keep the party united should be made the president – a hint that Kummanam could be given a second chance. However, the national leadership is unlikely to go for such an experiment as they don't consider Kummanam as a leader fit for the present day politics, sources said.
Kummanam is back in Kerala after he was made to resign the gubernatorial post and fielded as the BJP candidate in Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency.
“The present day BJP leadership considers only performance. They wouldn't try to satisfy group interests. For them, only a leader's capability to run the party would matter,” a source associated with the BJP and RSS said. He said Surendran's age and aggressive attitude could play to his advantage.
Earlier, there were reports that the RSS, the parental organisation of the BJP, was against Surendran as they had suspected that the decision to remove Kummanam as state chief was part of a game by V Muraleedharan to appoint Surendran to the post. Surendran is known as a confidant of Muraleedharan, the Union minister of state and former Kerala BJP chief.
“The RSS doesn't have any opposition to Surendran now. In fact, Surendran agreed to contest in Konni assembly segment in the bypoll after RSS prodded him to be the candidate. The Sangh even worked way better in Konni than it did in Vattiyoorkavu constituency,” sources said.
However, the RSS is likely to seek a better accommodation for Kummanam in the party as he is a loyal Sangh activist.
There were also reports that another young leader M T Ramesh could also be considered for the president's post in Kerala. However, at the moment he seems to be no match for Surendran's aggressive attitude and support base among the cadre.
Surendran's popularity has increased manifold after the Sabarimala protests last year during which he was jailed. He had polled 2,97,396 votes (28.9%) in the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency in a close triangular contest. In Konni, he got 39,786 votes in the bypoll. Though this was way lower than the 46,506 votes he had polled in the assembly segment in the Lok Sabha polls, the party still considers it as an achievement considering the fact that it had got just 16,713 votes in the 2016 assembly polls.