New Delhi: K Surendran, the face of BJP's strident protests over the Sabarimala temple issue, has been named the president of its Kerala unit. His appoint assumes significance as local body elections are due later this year, ahead of the 2021 assembly polls.
The post had been vacant since the appointment of P S Sreedharan Pillai as the governor of Mizoram on October 25, 2019. When Pillai took over as the BJP state president from Kummanam Rajasekharan in 2018, the post had been vacant for nearly two months.
It is widely believed the appointment of the new chief was delayed primarily due to factionalism in the Kerala unit. Two prominent groups in the party had been pitching for their own candidates for the post; the V Muraleedharan faction reportedly backed party Surendran and the PK Krishnadas faction was all for M T Ramesh.
"I will do my best and do justice to the faith that the leadership of the party has placed on me by strengthening the party at all levels," Surendran, who has been party's general secretary, told IANS.
Surendran had spearheaded BJP's agitation over the LDF government's decision to implement the 2018 Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. Several cases were charged against him at various police stations from Thiruvananthapuram to Karasagod. He was also charged over incidents that happened when he was already in jail.
However, it is believed that RSS was not impressed by Surendran's Sabarimala heroics. The Sangh is of the opinion that Surendran's protests inside the shrine had pushed the situation to near-anarchy.
Surendran's popularity increased manifold after the Sabarimala protests during which he was jailed. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the firebrand had polled 2,97,396 votes (28.9%) in the Pathanamthitta constituency in a close triangular contest.
In the Konni assembly bypoll in which he had contested later he garnered 39,786 votes. Though this was way lower than the 46,506 votes he had polled in the assembly segment in the Lok Sabha polls, BJP still considers it as an achievement considering the fact that it had got just 16,713 votes in the 2016 assembly polls.
In the last state polls in 2016, Surendran had come a close second at the Manjeswaram assembly constituency.
On Saturday, the BJP high command also appointed Vishnu Dutt Sharma, the Khajuraho MP, and Dal Bahadur Chauhan as state presidents of its units in Madhya Pradesh and Sikkim.
Two days ago BJP national president J P Nadda had re-appointed Chandrakant Patil as the president of party's Maharashtra unit.
Last month BJP had named new presidents for 10 districts of Kerala.