Kerala BJP will double its seats’ tally in local polls: Surendran

Thiruvananthapuram: With Kerala set to hold three-phased local body polls from next week, youthful state BJP unit President K Surendran seems to be ever-smiling, as he is sure his political stock will only go up once the votes are counted.

In an interview with IANS at the state BJP headquarters here, soon after a meeting with party candidates in the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation elections, the 50-year-old politician fielded questions on a range of issues. Excerpts:

Q: What’s your prediction on BJP performance in the local body polls?

A: We expect to win twice the seats of what we have. At present, we hold around 1,200 of the total 21,000 seats. We will do very well in five districts — Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Thrissur, Palakkad, and Kasargode.

Q: From where does this confidence come from?

A: This time, we are banking heavily on the youth and women. Our Sabarimala temple campaign will also help us, besides the way we handled COVID-19 situation; and, not to mention the overall ‘Modi effect’.

Moreover times and situation have changed in Kerala from the Vajpayee era. In those times, the BJP was just beginning to make its presence felt and there was lack of confidence in our candidates. Today, the situation has changed — we found it extremely difficult to name our candidates as there was a big rush of applicants. Our candidates’ confidence is very high. This time, none of the BJP nominees is contesting just for the sake of contesting, as all are aiming to win.

Q: What’s the reason for this new-found rejuvenation?

A: The organisation appears to have got solid support from the youth and women as they feel the BJP is the third alternative and a force to reckon with in Kerala. The grass roots are now pumped up and the situation is such that people have realised that policies and programmes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are the ones with a sense of direction and purpose. Just take a stroll across Kerala villages — you will see that people are now aware of what they have got from the Centre under various schemes.

Q: Is there a generational change effect in Kerala BJP?

A: Yes, there is. No other party has age criterion for its leaders. In Kerala, there is not a single Yuva Morcha member who is above the age of 35. Also, just look at the composition of any committee of ours at any level in Kerala, and even in feeder organisations — 33 per cent seats are set aside for women. Also, we have people from all religions on board, even in top party posts. Lobbying has ceased to exist and it’s only hard work and commitment that will fetch rewards for any BJP member.

Q: Who is your principal political enemy in the upcoming local polls in Kerala?

A: In some places, we are fighting the Left, while in some others it’s the Congress-led United Democratic Front. You just wait and see. We will come up trumps in Malappuram district (with a high percentage of Muslim voters). I was really surprised at the response we got from Malappuram. Not only will there be consolidation of the Hindu votes, there is also no longer any ‘untouchability’ from the Muslim community there. We got a huge response to Modi’s Re 1 sanitary campaign programme.

Q: There are media reports about senior party leader Shoba Surendran getting upset. Is there any solution to this issue?

A: The media seems to have a problem with it. A solution is there for every problem; but with her, there are no issues. So, the question of a solution does not arise. It’s nothing but a media hype.

Q: In the wake of the gold smuggling case that came to light in July, and other allegations, do you think Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will retain power in the 2021 Assembly polls?

A: But for the present grave issues, there was a chance of this happening. But now, the bigger question is — will he complete his present term? I seriously doubt that. He is in trouble and all eyes are on what will happen to his close aide and Assistant Private Secretary CM Ravindran when he finally appears before the Enforcement Directorate for questioning. Four Ministers can also run into difficulties. Things are not that rosy for Vijayan.