Cracks appear in BJP's Palakkad fort due to infighting over municipal chair

Priya Ajayan (left) and former chairperson Pramila Sasidharan. Photos: Special arrangement

Palakkad: While the BJP is eager to win its maiden Lok Sabha seat from Kerala in the upcoming General Elections, infighting has cast a shadow over its most secure local body in the state -- Palakkad Municipality.

On Monday, the 52-member council will vote to select a new chairperson as the position fell vacant following the resignation of BJP's Priya Ajayan on December 18.

In an ideal situation, selecting a new chairperson shouldn't be a problem for the BJP which holds a clear majority of 28 seats in the Municipality. However, even on the eve of the election, the BJP was yet to finalise an official candidate as at least two of its leaders, including former chairperson Pramila Sasidharan, have staked a claim for the key position.

Sasidharan was BJP's first-ever municipal chairperson in Kerala when the party created history by winning the local body in 2015. Currently, the BJP governs two of the 87 municipalities in Kerala, the other one is Pandalam in Pathanamthitta district, where the party rules with a majority of 18 seats in a 33-member council.

According to reports, the Sasidharan faction has decided to stay away from the municipal council if she is not named the chairperson on Monday. Despite a party whip, Sasidharan and her supporters did not attend the council meeting on Saturday.

The resignation
Priya Ajayan had cited personal reasons for stepping down from the chairperson's role. However, it is understood that she had strong opposition from within the party. “I chose to be real,” wrote Ajayan on her Facebook page a few hours after stepping down.

According to a BJP councillor, who requested not to be named, infighting in the party is the reason for the political situation. “Priya commenced her role as chairperson impressively. But recently, we saw her make independent decisions regarding various projects in BJP wards without consulting the respective councillors,” said the BJP councillor.

A few days before Ajayan resigned, BJP leaders L V Gopalakrishnan, Smithesh and Pramila Sasidharan stayed away from the council. Meanwhile, the opposition has alleged corruption and pressure over unfinished developmental works behind the resignation.

Ajayan, however, refuted the allegations, including those on infighting. “There’s no infighting between the BJP party leadership and its councillors. The party leadership was informed about my resignation three months ago,” she said after resigning. Ajayan had been the municipal chairperson for three years and two days.

Conflict of interest between BJP, RSS?
According to reports, a conflict of opinion between the BJP and the RSS leadership in the district is causing the delay in naming a candidate. “We are indeed in the dark,” said a senior BJP councillor, before expressing hope that the RSS-BJP leadership in the district would come up with a suitable candidate soon.

On Saturday, the BJP district leadership held a meeting, seeking the opinion of its councillors. “But none of the names that the leadership suggested gained majority support,” said a BJP leader preferring anonymity. While the RSS wants a new face, a section of the BJP leaders feel a senior member would be ideal to tackle the infighting over the remainder of the two-year tenure.

It is understood that some of the councillors want Priya Ajayan to return. BJP parliamentary party leader K V Viswanathan had moved from his usual seat during Thursday's council meeting and sat next to Ajayan, who had returned to the last row to express her silent displeasure.

Meanwhile, the UDF, the main opposition and the LDF have announced their candidates for the vacant chair. Mini Babu, a councillor from the Pallipuram ward will contest for the UDF while Usha M V, a two-time councillor from the Nurani ward is the LDF candidate.

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