Bringing an end not just to confusion but also speculation of springing a surprise through a 'Congressman’ in Pathanamthitta, the BJP has finally decided to field K Surendran.
While there were several in the race for Pathanamthitta, which houses Sabarimala shrine where BJP through its agitation against young women entry succeeded in consolidating Hindus to some extent, the decision of the RSS finally prevailed.
From BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai to Union Minister Alfons Kannamthanam, MT Ramesh and Surendran, there were many who eyed the seat. Finally, Kannamthanam was given Ernakulam and Ramesh had, sensing the powerful tug of war, pulled out very early.
Pillai tried his best to the last, though unsuccessfully. When RSS was being heard above all and Pillai knew his race for Pathanamthitta was lost, he did not give up hopes. In case NDA constituent BDJS chief Thushar Vellappally did not agree to contest from Thrissur, Surendran could get that seat and Pillai would get what he wished.
But the central leadership prevailed upon Thushar to contest from Thrissur and even before he officially confirmed his willingness, Surendran's candidature was announced.
In between, as part of the continuing intra-party strife, another bid was made to have some prominent figure from the Congress switch sides and become the candidate. That was how the name of Rajya Sabha former Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien cropped up.
The Congress leader, who was denied the RS seat last time and instead Kerala Congress (M) supremo KM Mani's son Jose K Mani was sent to the Upper House, had a grouse against the Congress leadership. Kurien said on Saturday that his name was unnecessarily dragged into the issue and he had been given 'better offers’ earlier which he did not accept.
Surendran has earned a ‘hero’ image in the Sabarimala agitation. However, he has seen the police slap a number of cases against him which could jeopardise his future in electoral politics.
To make matters worse, BJP, which proposes to make Sabarimala a campaign plank, would have to surmount a massive campaign against Surendran for showing ‘disrespect’ to religious customs. The Left is bound to make utmost of the clippings of Surendran dropping of the Irumudikettu, the pouch of puja items carried by pilgrims to Sabarimala. What was projected as police pulling down the Irumudikettu twice was in fact Surendran dropping it and waiting for police to stamp it during the commotion to arrest him and haul him into the police vehicle. But CCTV footages showed the police picking it and offering it to him.
Also, images of Surendran's role in the violence at Sabarimala would be highlighted during the poll campaign, a CPM source said, adding that it would portray him as an 'anti-hero and villain’.
A section in the BJP feels that caste and religious factors matter much in Pathanamthitta and the strong presence of Christians and the Nair community had to be considered while selecting candidates.