K. Surendran in Delhi as party State unit is on the back foot following Kodakara money heist
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Kerala State unit president K. Surendran is in New Delhi, reportedly at the behest of the party’s national leadership.
Mr. Surendran’s presence in the national capital has triggered intense speculation in Kerala about an imminent reshuffle in the party’s State leadership.
Mr. Surendran’s “summons” to New Delhi comes against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding police investigation into the suspected role of BJP workers in the alleged movement and subsequent highway heist of the party’s “unaccounted election funds” at Kodakara in Thrissur on April 3, barely three days before the Assembly elections in the State on April 6.
The controversy had provided a large stick to the ruling front and the Opposition in the Assembly to jointly assail the BJP.
Replying to an adjournment motion moved by the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in the Assembly on June 7, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had accused the BJP of channelling unaccounted money into the State during the 2021 Assembly election campaign.
Mr. Vijayan had said black money endangered the sanctity of the electoral process and derailed statutory and truthful accounting of election expenditure. Both fronts portrayed the Kodakara case as a severe election-era offence.
The police have arrested 20 persons, some of them BJP functionaries in Thrissur, in connection with the “hawala heist.” They have also recovered ₹1.12 crore out of the estimated ₹3.5 crore robbed allegedly with the help of insider information on the “election fund movement.”
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had sought the details of the case. The State police had complied on June 1.
The factional fight in the Janathipathya Rashtriya Party (JRP) headed by tribal leader C.K. Janu has manifested as a thorn in the side of the BJP in Kerala. At least two JRP leaders have accused the BJP State president of paying Ms. Janu ₹10 lakh to woo her back to the National Democratic Alliance fold.
The BJP is also struggling to fend off the accusation that it had paid a Kasaragod resident to withdraw the nomination filed by him to the Manjeswaram Assembly constituency where Mr. Surendran was the BJP candidate. The State police have opened a criminal inquiry against Mr. Surendran based on the accusation.
BJP denies ‘summons’
A BJP leader close to Mr. Surendran said that the State president’s position was not shaky as reported by the media.
The State president was not summoned to New Delhi as made out in the media. Instead, Mr. Surendran had sought an appointment with the national leadership to report the post-election evaluation of the core committee of the BJP’s Kerala unit. The BJP national leadership had also received the report of an independent committee tasked to report on the state of the BJP in Kerala, he said.
A “knee-jerk” reaction like removing the party president for a temporary election reversal had no precedent in the BJP. Mr. Surendran had assumed charge of the party in Kerala at the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic. He said any cutting short of Mr. Surendran’s term in office would not be an isolated action, but part of organisational rejig in Kerala.