Kunnummel Surendran has managed to secure the top party post in the State thanks to the support of senior BJP leader from the State and Union Minister of State, V. Muralidharan and national general secretary B L Santosh.

The rival faction in the state unit headed by National Executive member P. K. Krishna Das seems to have grudgingly accepted the nomination of Surendran on the assurance that the interest of his faction will be taken care of. If the central leadership fails to address their concerns, then the sailing will not be smooth for Surendran.

It is an uneasy truce under the circumstances. It remains to be seen how long it will last. It must be pointed out that the Krishna Das faction cannot be trifled with as seven district BJP chiefs owe allegiance to him. The Muralidharan faction controls only three districts. Uncertainty prevails in four other districts.

Another prominent leader Shoba Surendran, who does not belong to any of the factions, has not responded to Surendran’s appointment so far. Reports have it that she could be made the chief of the BJP’s Mahila Federation.

The RSS unit in Kerala, which was not initially well disposed to Surendran, also seems to have accepted the central BJP’ leadership’s decision. The RSS unit in the State has all along favoured former Kerala BJP chief Kummanam Rajashekharan. It would have been happy if Kummanam had been named the Kerala BJP chief. But reports have it that Kummanam is likely to be shifted to the Centre by giving him a major assignment at the national level.

There are, however, already indications that Surendran will have to reckon with the displeasure of a few prominent leaders in the State. For instance, speculation is rife that two of the general secretaries, MT Ramesh and AN Radhakrishnan, staunch supporters of Krishna Das, may resign their posts. Radhakrishnan, who is senior Surendran in the party, is said to be in no mood to work under his ‘junior’.

Be that as it may, Surendran has his task cut out The challenges ahead are manifold and daunting. First and foremost, he will have to ensure that dissidence does not go beyond limits. For record’s sake Surendran has said that the party will work as a cohesive unit from now on. But it is easier said than done, given the scale of dissidence and groupism plaguing the Kerala BJP.

The new state party boss will have to devote his energies to the stupendous task of revamping the party organisation in the state, which is in disarray in the wake of political as well as electoral reverses. The performance of the BJP in a string of byelections to the state assembly is nothing to write home about. The party also fared badly in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections failing to win even a single seat from the State. The party was expected to do well in at least three Lok Sabha constituencies: Palakkad. Thiruvananthapuram and Pathanamthitta. But wrong selection of candidates and overconfidence over the success of the Sabarimala agitation did the party in.

Also, the BJP’s efforts at expansion have not succeeded at all. The party has suffered a serious setback with its main ally, the Bharat Dharma Jana Sen(BDJS) in a sullen mood over the failure of the central BJP leadership to honour the promises it had made to the BDJS. The party’s attempts to rope in new allies have also drawn a blank.

The immediate task before Surendran,who shot to prominence following the stellar role he played in the Sabarimala agitation, is to convert the party into a fighting force to face the local bodies elections due in October this year. That is only the semi final. The final, of course, is the elections to the State Assembly in May next year.

The party chief will have to evolve new strategies as the old tactic of polarising the people on religious lines has failed miserably in Kerala. The strategy , which succeeded in states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh has been rudely rebuffed by secular Kerala. Kerala’s strong opposition to the divisive tactics of the BJP is evident from the rejection of the Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) and the proposed move to go for a National Register of Citizens(NRC). The State assembly passed a resolution against the CAA and the State Government moved the Supreme Court against the controversial law.

Party insiders feel that in view of the stupendous challenges the party is faced with , Surendran is the best man for the job. The man is known to lead from the front. But his aggressive persona and bellicosity will have to be curbed if he really wants to take the party along in his efforts to make it a third force in the State, dominated at present by the CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front(LDF) and the Congress-headed United Democratic Front(UDF). A daunting task even in the best of times, and especially so at this juncture when the party is anything but fighting fit in the State. (IPA Service)