Confusion over the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate for Vellore ended late on Monday night with the party’s central leadership announcing the nomination of A C Shanmugam, president of the New Justice Party (NJP). He will contest on the BJP’s symbol.
The owner of the Dr MGR Educational and Research Institute, Shanmugam had earlier won from the same seat on an AIADMK ticket. From Thanjavur, the party fielded its State general secretary ‘Karuappu’ M Muruganantham.
Senior BJP leader L Ganesan, who himself is contesting from the prestigious South Chennai seat for the second time (he lost in 2009), had earlier in the day said that a list containing recommendations for the two constituencies had been dispatched to the party’s central leadership and that the announcement of the candidates could be expected in a day or two.
Sources tied the delay in announcing the nominees to a tussle between two factions within the party. They said BJP national secretary Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan had made a pitch for the Vellore seat after North Chennai, from where she contested and lost in the 2009 polls, was given to DMDK under the seat-sharing arrangement. She had initially hoped to contest from Sriperumbudur, which, for a while, appeared to be in the saffron party’s kitty. However, a section of the State leadership allegedly derailed her prospects by “thrusting” the seat on the MDMK. “It is the same group that was stalling her candidature for Vellore by delaying the announcement, so that she might eventually lose interest,” a party activist said.
Another senior functionary pointed out that while attempts to deny the ticket to veterans such as C P Radhakrishnan and H Raja — who are contesting from Coimbatore and Sivaganga — by the present leadership failed, Dr Soundararajan proved to be an easier target.
And since the BJP had agreed to give a seat to the NJP, but could not do so because of the demands made by other allies, the party sought to give away Vellore on the pretext of fulfilling its commitment, the senior functionary added.
The NJP chief has deep pockets, which will be helpful at the hustings. This, of course, means that the party would be contesting only from seven seats in the State. He is from the dominant Mudaliyar community, and will be taking on AIADMK candidate Senguttuvan who also hails from the same community.
In Thanjavur, the sources said, State BJP president Pon Radhakrishnan had backed party State general secretary ‘Karuppu’ Muruganandam’s candidature, while Ganesan favoured State vice-president M S Ramalingam. Pon Radhakrishnan’s choice was finally accepted. With growing concerns over casteism and factionalism in the party, the leadership has a challenging task of putting up a united fight in the polls.