The appointment of BJP Tamil Nadu Chief Tamilisai Soundararajan as Telangana Governor has set the ball rolling for the selection of a new state President. And sources within the state BJP tell TNM that a decision could be announced in as early as a week. There are however multiple candidates vying for the post from both the senior clan and relatively new leaders.
Several sources in the party, maintain that state secretary KT Raghavan, an advocate by profession is amongst the front runners for the post. Party sources say that Raghavan has the backing of national general secretary BL Santosh for the posting.
His support is significant because, Santosh acts as the link between the RSS and the party and is also instrumental in BJP's electoral and social growth in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
"If BL Santosh has a say in the appointment, then KT Raghavan will definitely get the post," says a state BJP source. Another senior leader states that Raghavan is capable and qualified for the post.
"But the fact that he is from the Brahmin community will be a setback for him," says the senior leader. "Making him the President will lead to immense criticism. If the party does it despite this potential backlash then it means there is a clear plan in mind about what exactly he will be doing to boost our prospects. The main aim is to find someone who will push the party's agenda to perform well in the 2021 elections," he adds.
When TNM contacted KT Raghavan, he stated that he was grateful for support but maintained that the final decision was that of the party's.
"There are several senior leaders who are deserving and have done lot of work for the party. They will also have to be considered," he says.
Amongst the senior leaders vying for the post, say sources, are former Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and National Secretary H Raja.
But while H Raja being a Brahmin is likely to act as a hurdle, the high command is unhappy with Pon Radhakrishnan's performance in the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha elections. He had lost to Congress' H Vasanthakumar with a margin of over 2 lakh votes.
"The party has one of the strongest bases in Kanyakumari and a good number of cadre. But Pon Radhakrishnan squandered it away and faced a humiliating defeat," says a senior leader. "The party's cadre were very displeased with his functioning and did not support. So, the Centre is unhappy too," he adds.
Another BJP leader points out that Pon Radhakrishnan was passed over for the Governor's role despite being senior to Tamilisai.
"So, he will definitely want to take up the top leadership role in the state. He had held the post from 2009 to 2014 and did a a very good job," admits the BJP leader. "But now, he doesn't have age and energy on his side," he adds.
Other BJP leaders under consideration include Vanathi Srinivasan (general secretary), Former BJP MP CP Radhakrishnan, Professor Srinivasan (State secretary), P Kanagasabapathy (State Intellectual wing president) and Karuppu M Muruganandam.
Of these Vanathi, say sources has all the qualifications to become State President.
"She has served in the party for over 10 years, which is a requisite and she has support in Coimbatore. She also belongs to the Gounder community and will works in terms of caste equations. The RSS also backs her," says a BJP source. "However the leadership is unlikely to appoint a woman immediately after another woman has ended her term," he adds.
Both Professor Srinivasan and P Kanagasabapathy, according to BJP leaders, are being supported by RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy. But while Kanagasabapathy's prospects seem grim, sources say Srinivasan could prove to be a dark horse in this race.
He has proven his leadership capabilities, say multiple sources, despite have been in the party for only close to three years.
"He belong to the Reddiyar community and came to the party only in 2016," says a BJP leader. "But he has developed leadership stature. He has taken Madurai zone under his control and has been organising various factions. Even before 2016, he was actively bring in multiple caste groups into the party," he adds.
Both Srinivasan and Kanagasabapathi are former members of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch.
Karuppu Muruganandham meanwhile is seen as a potential Thevar face for the party. With the AIADMK as a potential ally in upcoming polls, the party would look to go beyond Western Tamil Nadu and find support in the southern regions.
"If Pon Radhakrishnan doesn't get the top post, he is likely to support Muruganandham," confirms a BJP source.
However, with Party President Amit Shah at the helm, party sources say there is no question of lobbying for a post.
"The Centre decision will be final," say a BJP leader. "We will just have to wait for the announcement."