Thiruvananthapuram: BJP state leadership is being targeted by significant factions for the lacklustre performance in the Kerala civic polls. It is being blamed for the party's failure to secure even half of the target of 3,000 seats across urban and rural local self-government bodies.
However, the leadership’s retort is that even the LDF and UDF have got fewer seats than in 2015 and that only the NDA has grown in this election in terms of seats or wards secured in corporations, municipalities and the three-tier panchayats.
The party could fetch only around 1,600 seats across the state which is gain of a few hundred seats over the 2015 civic polls. The state leadership had assured the central leaders that the party would win at least 8,000 seats at various levels and gain control of 194 village panchayats, 24 municipalities besides Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram corporations. However, the party could not reach anywhere near the target.
BJP national president JP Nadda has lauded the party's performance in Kerala and it has been a breather of sorts to party state chief K Surendran and others.
Nadda could have been referring to the victory in Palakkad and Pandalam municipalities and the doubling of the number of panchayats in its kitty from 12 in 2015. The BJP even managed to become the single largest party and main opposition in some municipalities.
Poll review at local level
Although the core committee and state office-bearers of the BJP met online on Thursday, there was no detailed discussion on the election performance. It directed the local committees to discuss the poll results and submit a report. The district leadership meetings will be held from Friday.
Meanwhile, the rebel faction led by state vice-president Sobha Surendran has intensified its move against Surendran.
Senior leader O Rajagopal's reaction to the poll results saying that attacking the government with the gold smuggling case and allegations against Swapna Suresh did not yield results has provided ammunition for those targeting Surendran.
Loss of sitting seats hurts most
It is the big defeats in sitting seats that shattered the BJP’s calculations. In Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, it lost 10 sitting seats, but won 11 new seats. In Kozhikode, it lost five sitting seats, but ended up gaining five others. It is speculated that there was a conspiracy to defeat the BJP in seats in which it felt it had a good chance of winning. There are also doubts within the party that this is not a result of collusion between UDF and LDF but of communal polarisation.
Underlining such doubts, the BJP pointed to UDF candidates being relegated to third position in 76 wards in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation.
Did dissenters spoil chances?
In the run-up to the civic polls dissenters like Sobha Surendran had voiced their displeasure with the state leadership. However, the party top brass feels that it did not have a big say on the performance. The BJP made good gains in the constituencies that fall under the Attingal Lok Sabha constituency, from where Sobha Surendran had contested.
The rebels, however, do not accept these arguments of the leadership. They wonder if the party can expect a turn around in the Assembly elections in view of the performance in the local body polls.
The leadership meeting held on Thursday has decided to start work for the Assembly elections soon. The core committee and office-bearers will meet directly next week.
No vote for UDF, LDF
The BJP leadership has stated that its members should not support the UDF or LDF in the election of local body chiefs and other office-bearers. The party will contest alone against both the fronts wherever possible without considering the possibility of a victory. If it is possible to get the votes of other fronts, it can be accepted, the leadership said.
BJP hopes that it will be able to rule a few civic bodies where it doesn’t have a majority on its own.