In its first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections released on Thursday, BJP named 13 of its 14 candidates for Kerala. Notably absent from the list was a candidate for the seat of Pathanamthitta, the district where the Sabarimala temple is located.
While reports say there is an internal dispute in the party over the candidates for the district, state BJP chief PS Sreedharan Pillai has denied this.
“There is no dispute over the candidate for Pathanamthitta. The deliberations on the matter are over. It is unlikely that any last-minute changes would be made,” Pillai said, according to Malayala Manorama.
Earlier this week, the BJP finalised its seat-sharing deal for the state with its allies Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) and the Kerala Congress (PC Thomas).
Of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala, BJP will contest 14 seats, BDJS will field five candidates and the Kerala Congress one.
BDJS is the political wing of the social organisation Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, led by Vellappally Natesan.
Reports say the decision on the Pathanamthitta seat hangs on which seat BDJS chief Thushar Vellapally chooses to contest from.
According to Mathrubhumi, if Thushar Vellapally contests from Thrissur, BJP will field state party leader K Surendran from Pathanamthitta. If he does not, Surendran will be fielded from Thrissur.
The indecision on this seat has reportedly upset the faction of the Kerala BJP led by V Muraleedharan, of which Surendran is a part.
The BJP, which has never won a Lok Sabha seat from Kerala (it only won its first Assembly seat in 2016) is hoping that the polarisation created by the Sabarimala issue can attract a large part of the Hindu vote in Kerala towards it. The party had said it would argue that the CPI(M)-led LDF government had conspired to destroy the Sabarimala temple, before the state Election Commission it could not.
After an all-party meet with the EC, BJP had promised to toe the line drawn by the EC on campaigning over the issue.
Hindus are the dominant community in Pathanamitta at 55% of the population, followed by Christians, News18 reports.
The incumbent Pathanamthita MP, Anto Anthony, is the candidate from Congress-led United Democratic Front and a two-time winner from the seat. The Left Democratic Front candidate is Veena George, an MLA from Aranmula.