It was perhaps unprecedented that two state chiefs of a political party were consecutively appointed as the governor of the same state. Two former heads of the BJP Kerala unit — Kummanam Rajasekharan and PS Sreedharan Pillai — were appointed as the Governor of Mizoram, one after the other. It has been two months since Pillai was appointed as a Governor, but there has been no consensus in the party on who will be the new state president of the BJP.
When Kummanam was elevated to the post of Mizoram Governor on May 25, 2018, the political campaign for the Chengannur bye-election was at its peak. The bye-polls were held on May 28. At the time, Sreedharan Pillai, born in Venmani in Chengannur, was the party’s candidate for the Chengannur bye-polls, but finished third.
Kummanam had been the state president of the BJP since December 18, 2015 until May 25, 2018. But it took the BJP four months to replace Kummanam with Pillai in September 2018. For Pillai, it was his second term as the state president of the BJP, after an initial term from 2003 to 2006.
But in just over a year Sreedharan Pillai’s term as Kerala BJP President was cut short, with his appointment as Mizoram Governor announced on October 25. The move came a day after the results of the Kerala bye-elections to five assembly constituencies, where BJP once again failed to win even a single seat.
With the top post in Kerala BJP lying vacant for two months, the race is still on for party President. According to sources, Party General Secretary K Surendran is one of the main contenders for the post. Surendran was the face of the party during protests against the Supreme Court order that allowed the entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple.
Despite contesting the elections twice in constituencies where the Sabarimala temple is located — first in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and then in the Konni Assembly bye-polls in October — Surendran failed to win either and did not make it to the second place either.
Reports suggest that national BJP leadership will visit the state in January 2020 to assess the sentiment of the party leaders before they pick the new president. They will be seeking the opinion of national council members and office-bearers of the state unit.
Surendran has the backing of Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan while the opposing faction in the party has backed MT Ramesh as their choice. MT Ramesh has the blessings of the former party state president PK Krishnadas as well. The name of Kummanam Rajasekharan, who resigned as Mizoram Governor to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Thiruvananthapuram, has also been doing the rounds.
These opposing groups, in the past too, had failed to reach a consensus on a name to head the party. This seems to have reflected in the party’s offensive of the statewide opposition against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as well. While both the ruling LDF and the opposition UDF came together to protest against the CAA, the BJP leaders failed to respond as a single united party. The responses by the leaders remain scattered.
MT Ramesh, however, rejects any kind of bickering within the party, calling them mere rumours.
“The organizational reconstitution in the party has been going on. Now it has been completed at the constituency level, the announcement of which will be made in January. This will be followed by an election to the district unit and the appointment of the president will be made after that. There is no practice in the party of appointing an interim president,” Ramesh told TNM.
'“Yes, the national leaders will come to the state prior to the appointment of a new president, but that does not mean that there is infighting in the state unit,” he added.