By Ashraf Padanna/Gulf Times Correspondent/Thiruvananthapuram
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to field veteran politician O Rajagopal in a crucial June 27 assembly by-election in Aruvikkara, Kerala.
“The BJP core committee has decided on his candidature. We will be meeting (party president) Amit Shah in New Delhi tomorrow and present the proposal (for a formal announcement),” its state unit president V Muraleedharan said.
Though Rajagopal, 85, has contested several elections in Kerala during the past five decades, he has not won any.
He was a junior federal minister under prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, of parliament for two successive terms from Madhya Pradesh.
He could not make it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet as he is identified to be close to BJP veteran and former deputy prime minister L K Advani.
Rajagopal has been improving his vote share election after election and he stood second in Nemom in the 2011 assembly elections and in Thiruvananthapuram in last year’s parliamentary election.
Though his presence in the race would make the contest tough it is unlikely that he would taste victory. But he could well eat into the votes of the dominant ruling and opposition sides making a prediction almost impossible.
The Congress Party’s young candidate K S Sabarinathan and his Communist Party of India (Marxist) opponent M Vijayakumar, also a veteran of many successful elections, have already made much headway in the campaign.
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, the BJP candidate cornered just 14,890 votes against the CPM’s 52,000 and Congress Party’s 47,837.
BJP leaders claim it has a membership base of 20,000 in the constituency now and its vote share will go up substantially.
Superstar Suresh Gopi, the newly appointed chairman of the National Film Development Corp of India (NFDC), has also expressed his willingness to campaign for Rajagopal, though its impact is unpredictable.
The BJP believes Rajagopal’s presence in the race will help him win assembly elections due next year from the neighboring Nemom where he established a lead of 18,046 votes over the Congress Party’s Shashi Tharoor last year.
He also came first in Kazhakkoottam, Vattiyoorkavu and Thiruvananthapuram city as well. Nemom is currently held by CPM’s V Sivankutty while the other three are represented by the Congress (M A Wahid, K Muraleedharan and V S Sivakumar).
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