Even as the BJP’s central leadership appears to be hesitant to change its Kerala chief at a time when controversies he is embroiled in have reached their peak, pressure from within the state unit is mounting for a change at the top. With RSS leaders in Kerala also expressing displeasure over affairs in the state unit, the BJP’s national leadership has cautioned the state president K Surendran, who is currently in New Delhi, sources said.
On Saturday, at a virtual office bearers’ meeting of the state unit, Surendran was not invited, sources said. His absence at the meeting, convened by BJP state general secretary (Organisation) M Ganeshan, is seen as an indication of the increasing unhappiness of the RSS leadership in the state towards the official faction led by Surendran. According to Kerala BJP general secretary George Kurian, considered close to Surendran, the meeting was held at the time Surendran was to address the media in New Delhi.
The meeting has decided to hold protest marches at booth and constituency levels on June 16, 17 and 18. Despite the Kerala BJP’s official stand that the Kodakara highway robber case is a ploy by the CPI(M)-led state government to harass the BJP, a number of party leaders from the faction-ridden Kerala unit have demanded the national leadership to remove Surendran from the post. However, sources in the central BJP pointed out that a change at the peak of controversies could be seen as “conceding the guilt and would provide impetus to the Opposition’s attack against the party”.
The Sunday Express contacted Surendran for a reaction, but he did not respond.
Sources said the RSS leadership, which had extended its support to the official faction, is increasingly becoming disturbed over the turn of events in the state BJP. “First of all Sangh leaders are upset over the political immaturity of the state leadership in dealing with the recent controversies. Some of them, especially from the intellectual wing, feel that the RSS had been dragged into the highway robbery case controversy deliberately to force the Sangh to support Surendran and those who have been accused in it,” said a party leader from Kerala. He said the RSS annual meeting on June 30 in the state will be crucial for the current leadership.
Surendran has already met BJP president J P Nadda and a few Union ministers. He was accompanied by Union Minister V Muraleedharan.
While BJP leaders in Kerala claimed that Nadda also has expressed his displeasure over the functioning of the Kerala leadership, Surendran at a press conference in Delhi denied that there was any discussion about the controversies. According to him, the discussions were on how to take the party forward, its future tasks in the state and also about the state unit being united.
Surendran is also learnt to have sought a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah, but the meeting has not taken place yet.
Kerala unit of the BJP has been in the eye of storm as a number of its leaders are being probed by Kerala police in connection with a highway robbery in Thrissur. Police suspect that the money was part of “unaccounted election funds”.
The party leadership in Kerala has also courted controversy after a JRP leader claimed that her party’s chief C K Jaanu demanded Rs 10 crore from Surendran to return to the NDA before the Assembly polls and finally pocketed Rs 10 lakh. A BSP candidate, who filed her nomination from Manjeswaram constituency, one of the two where Surendran contested, alleged that he was paid Rs 2.5 lakh to withdraw his nomination. BJP has denied both the allegations.
On Saturday, a new audio clip surfaced in connection with the allegations that Janu had received money from Surendran to return to the NDA.
Surendran had denied the allegations.