Thiruvananthapuram: Hours after tweeting that E Sreedharan, India’s ‘metro man’, would be the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for next month’s Kerala Assembly election, Union Minister V Muraleedharan issued a clarification on Thursday night, telling the party had not yet taken a final decision.
“There were some statements E Sreedharan will be the chief ministerial candidate in Kerala. I heard media reports that the party has announced him as the Chief Minister candidate,” Muraleedharan said.
“After I talked to the party president, he said he hasn’t made any statement and was referring to some issue in Kerala. So it should not be considered an announcement. I’m clarifying it,” he added.
Earlier in the day Muraleedharan had tweeted: “Kerala BJP will fight Kerala polls with E Sreedharanji as its chief ministerial candidate. We will defeat both CPM and Congress to provide a corruption-free, development-oriented governance for the people of Kerala.”
That tweet has now been deleted.
However, Sreedharan’s name has been forwarded to the BJP’s central leadership for consideration as the face of its Kerala campaign. This was after the state unit chief, K Surendran, threw his weight behind the ‘metro man’, who only formally joined the party last week.
“‘Metro man’ E Sreedharan built (a) bridge in five months without corruption. Not like the flyover which had to be brought down and was reflective of CPM-UDF misrule. We have requested the party to make E Sreedharan the Chief Minister candidate,” Surendran said Thursday afternoon.
That was the second time in two weeks he has batted for Sreedharan; last month, at a rally in Kasargod, he said the ‘metro man’ was “qualified to to adorn any post.. including Chief Minister”
The BJP’s decision to project Sreedharan as its chief ministerial candidate is contrary to an “unofficial” rule in the party – that nobody over 75 can be considered for a ministerial berth or role.
Sreedharan will turn 89 in June. There is, however, immediate precedence for exceptions to that rule; BS Yediyurappa was 76 when he was sowrn in as Chief Minister of Karnataka in 2019.
Earlier on Thursday Sreedharan visited the Palarivattom flyover in Kochi – dressed in the uniform of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for the last time in his engineering career.
“This will be the last day I wear this uniform. I wore the DMRC’s outdoor uniform for the first time in November 1997… Same practice I continued for last 24 years,” he said.
Sreedharan said he was expecting a “big” win in the election, and that he had “made only one demand” – “I want to contest in a constituency not far from Ponnani where I am residing now.”
“I will not be working like a politician… I will work like a technocrat,” he said.
Last month he said he could not achieve his goals for Kerala “unless I am Chief Minister”.
“If BJP comes to power in Kerala, there will be three to four major areas we want to focus. One is infrastructure development in a big way and another is to bring industry,” he said.
“If BJP wants, I will contest (the elections)… (and) to tell you very frankly, unless I am Cheif Minister these priorities cannot be achieved”.
The BJP has just one MLA in the 140-strong Kerala Assembly (up from zero in 2011), but is hopeful that Sreedharan’s charisma and appeal will rub off on the party’s fortunes.
Sreedharan’s entry into electoral politics has been played down by the BJP’s rivals in Kerala. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he thought the ‘metro na’ would have a “minimal impact”.
Kerala will vote in a single phase on April 6 with results due May 2.
Sreedharan first made headlines while restoring the historic Pamban bridge in Tamil Nadu, the link between the island Rameshwaram and the mainland, after it was damaged by a cyclone.
He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008.