Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Thursday clarified that the Bharatiya Janata Party has not yet taken a final decision to nominate Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, popularly known as India’s “metro man”, as its chief ministerial candidate for next month’s Kerala Assembly elections, ANI reported.
This came hours after the Union minister tweeted that Sreedharan will be the saffron party’s Sreedharan chief ministerial candidate in Kerala. The tweet has now been deleted. Muraleedharan told ANI that the announcement was erroneously made due to a miscommunication and was incorrect.
“There were some statements that E Sreedharan will be CM candidate in Kerala,” he told ANI. “I heard media reports that the party has announced him as the CM candidate. After I talked to the party president he said that he hasn’t made any statement and he was only referring to some issue in Kerala. So it should not be considered as an announcement, I’m clarifying it.”
Kerala will go to polls in a single phase on April 6 and the results will be declared on May 2. Currently, the BJP has only one MLA in the 140-member Kerala Assembly. The BJP will be up against the ruling Left Democratic Front – a coalition of Left parties – and the Congress-led United Democratic Front.
Sreedharan, an engineer, retired as the chief of the Delhi Metro and was also involved with similar projects in other cities, earning him the moniker “metro man”. He settled in Malappuram district’s Ponnani after his stint with the Delhi Metro. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008.
The 88-year-old joined the BJP last month and shown interest in contesting the elections. He told India Today that there will be a “landslide switch over” to the BJP if he was projected as the chief ministerial candidate.
Sreedharan told The Hindu on Thursday that he was willing to contest from any constituency not too far from Ponnani, where he resides after initial reports said he was the chief ministerial candidate. “I have not cited my preference for any constituency,” he said. “Kochi is among the places that I know well [having supervised Kochi Metro’s phase one works].”
The newly inducted BJP leader added that he will resign as the Delhi Metro’s principal advisor before submitting his nomination. “I will still be available to oversee development projects, including as an MLA,” he told The Hindu.
The former Delhi Metro chief also spoke about how his election campaign would look like. “There will not be any door-to-door visits to houses and shops,” he said. “The emphasis will be on digital campaigning, whose message will reach every home and every person.”
Earlier in the day, BJP’s Kerala unit urged the party’s central leadership to pick Sreedharan as the chief ministerial candidate, PTI reported.
Kerala BJP chief K Surendran praised Sreedharan at a party meeting on Thursday. “He completed the Palarivattom flyover reconstruction project in five months without any corruption,” Surendran said. “That is why we requested Sreedharan and our party leadership that he should be projected as the [National Democratic Alliance’s] chief minister candidate.”
He added that developmental work under Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be implemented with a “ten-fold force” in Kerala if NDA is elected to power.
Days after joining the BJP, Sreedharan had said that the party was “being painted like a communal party”, when asked about his view on people’s perception of the saffron party.
“...It is a party consisting of nation lovers and who accept that all parties, all communities are alike as far as they are concerned,” he had said.
On being asked to comment on the BJP’s take on matters like “love jihad” and consumption of beef – a common practice among Hindus in Kerala, where Sreedharan will begin his political stint – the former Delhi Metro chief said that he will oppose “that sort of a thing”.
“Personally, I am a very, very strict vegetarian,” Sreedharan said. “I don’t even eat eggs so, certainly I don’t like anybody eating meat. That is certain and ‘Love Jihad’, yes, I see what has happened in Kerala. How Hindus are being tricked in a marriage and how they suffer...not only Hindus, Muslim, the Christian girls are being tricked in a marriage.”
“Love jihad” is a conspiracy theory espoused by right-wing Hindutva activists, alleging that Hindu women are forcibly converted by Muslims through marriage.