Union Minister V Muraleedharan had tweeted that E Sreedharan would be the BJP's chief ministerial face, but later retracted the statement.

Amit Shah, E. SreedharanRepresentative image: PTI
news 2021 Kerala Assembly Election Saturday, April 03, 2021 - 16:17

It has been just a month since ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan announced that he was joining the BJP and contesting the 2021 elections. His name, initially announced as the Chief Minister face by party leaders, was later withdrawn, and this has raised questions about the BJP’s U-turn. But what is behind the reluctance in announcing his leadership for the upcoming election?

BJP’s Kerala elections co-in-charge, Dr Ashwathnarayan, spoke to TNM and while saying that E Sreedharan is a huge boost to their campaign in Kerala, added, “During his career, Sreedharan has been the architect of the metro and the educated people of Kerala look at him and believe he can bring development. Kerala is lagging behind drastically in development. They want him to be an architect for the new Kerala.”

Sreedharan, who is a technocrat-turned-politician at the age of 88 is making news for his feisty interviews where he is seen snapping at journalists for asking ‘negative and controversial’ questions. But his stance on contentious issues like ‘love jihad’, beef ban and Hindu victimisation is sufficiently in tandem with the right wing. While he may be touted as the ‘developmental’ face of BJP in Kerala, that has not stopped him from indulging in rabble rousing.

Speaking to TNM, BJP’s Palakkad district president Krishna Das says that not announcing Sreedharan as the CM face is in line with the party’s policy elsewhere. “Yogi Adityanath did not even contest in the Uttar Pradesh elections. He was made CM and then within six months, got elected. In none of the states, the BJP projects a CM face unless there is a sitting CM,” he says, defending the move.

BJP’s state President K Surendran had said that the party wanted to project Sreedharan to be the CM face to showcase that the party can deliver a non-corrupt and development oriented government in the state. Taking cue from this, in early March, Union Minister V Muraleedharan tweeted that E Sreedharan would indeed be the BJP's chief ministerial face. “BJP, under the able leadership of PM Shri Narendra Modiji will strive to take care of the needs of the people of Kerala. The new Kerala under E Sreedharanji will pave the way for an efficient & effective Govt in the state (sic)," he had said.

But just hours after this, he retracted the statement, blaming the confusion on miscommunication. Krishna Das says these announcements were made by jumping the gun and did not have the sanction of the high command. “The state president, without the consent of the central leadership, announced that Sreedharan sir is the CM face. He then later corrected himself but by then, a few others also announced,” he told TNM.

“In BJP, the central parliamentary board will decide the CM. If the BJP or NDA gets the majority, in all likelihood, the CM face will be Sreedharan. He has never stated that he will be the CM. He has said that if the party decides and the question comes up, he would accept it,” Krishna Das added.

Krishna Das says that Sreedharan enjoys the support of other party leaders “because it is based on merit, and based on who is capable of administration. When the PM came to Palakkad for campaigning, he said people like Sreedharan who have a clean record and can work hard for the party should enter politics”.

But an RSS source who spoke to TNM differed from this opinion. Choosing to stay anonymous, the source said, “While the party leaders are greatly enthused with the joining of Sreedharan, many have expressed concern over a career technocrat understanding the nuances and the ‘compromise’ required of a politician.” He refers to Sreedharan’s interviews where he is seen flying off the handle at questions which are to be expected to be put to a politician. He also adds that some in the party have felt slighted that a consensus is not taken and a man, irrespective of his ‘stellar record in public service’ is propped at the top.

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