Thiruvananthapuram: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Kerala has landed in yet another controversy, with one of the independent candidates in Mancheswaram alleging that the party paid him ₹2.5 lakh and a smart phone for withdrawing his nomination from the 2021 assembly elections. K Sundara, an independent candidate from north Kerala, alleged this was done to favour BJP state president K Surendran, who was contesting from the seat.
Speaking to reporters in Kasaragod on Saturday, Sundara said he was under tremendous pressure and sought ₹15 lakh from the BJP to withdraw his papers. He alleged that he was paid ₹2.5 lakh and received a smart phone, adding that he was also offered a wine parlour and a house in Karnataka once K Surendran emerged victorious.
In Kerala, independent candidates bearing similarities with the main contender’s name are often promoted by opponents in a bid to confuse voters and dent the vote share. In 2016 assembly elections, Sundara got 467 votes while Surendran lost the seat by a slender margin of 89 votes. He said this time the BJP was cautious and many party leaders from Karnataka pressurised him to withdraw from the election. He added that after withdrawing his nomination, he campaigned openly for Surendran.
However, the BJP state president lost the seat last month by a bigger margin of 745 votes to Muslim League’s AKM Ashraf in a triangular contest.
“After the loss nobody contacted me. I did not get the promised amount,” said Sundara.
While BJP Kasaragod district president K Sreekanth denied the allegations, Surendran was not available for his comments. “These are wild allegations. K Sundara withdrew his papers on his own,” said Sreekanth. Ashraf said he will take up the issue with the election commission.
The latest allegation has surfaced at a time when the BJP is struggling with highway heist and subsequent police investigation. The highway incident unfolded on Thrisur-Ernakulam highway in Kodakara on April 3 when a man named S Shamseer, who was transporting cash, was waylaid by a group of people, who robbed the money after assaulting him. Four days later (on April 7), Shamseer filed a police complaint claiming ₹25 lakh, which was meant for a property transaction, was stolen from his vehicle. Police filed a case on April 7 following the compliant.
There were many loose ends in the statement of Shamseer and police later found that seized money would run into crores (according to latest information it was about ₹3.5 crore).
On sustained interrogation by the police, Shamseer reportedly took name of one Dharmajan, a local RSS leader, and alleging that the money collected from many sources was meant for election activities. After investigation, police have arrested 20 persons involved in the snatching incident, all history-sheeters. Police have recovered ₹1.25 crore so far. There are many criminal gangs that target hawala money and gold carriers, a police official said.
There are allegations that the seized money came from Karnataka and was meant to influence voters. Many district leaders of the BJP were questioned in Thrissur and there is a strong speculation that K Surendran and party MP Suresh Gopi could be summoned by police.
“The BJP had spent crores in Kerala, but people gave a befitting reply by closing its lone account in the state. It is time for the party to understand that Kerala is not a fertile land for it,” CPI(M) leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said, adding that more such incidents will surface soon.