E Sreedharan, the ‘metro man’ of India will be the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for next month’s Kerala Assembly election, Union Minister V Muraleedharan tweeted Thursday evening.
“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,” Mr Muraleedharan said.
“BJP, under the able leadership of PM Shri Narendra Modiji will strive to take care of the needs of the people of Kerala. The new Kerala under E Sreedharanji will pave the way for an efficient & effective Govt in the state,” he added.
The New Kerala under E Sreedharan Ji will pave the way for an efficient & effective Govt in the state.
— V Muraleedharan (@VMBJP) March 4, 2021
The BJP’s decision to project Mr Sreedharan as its chief ministerial candidate is contrary to an unwritten rule in the party – that nobody over 75 can be considered for a ministerial berth or role.
Mr Sreedharan will turn 89 in June. There is, however, immediate precedence for exceptions to that rule; BS Yediyurappa was 76 when he was sworn in as Chief Minister of Karnataka in 2019.
Union Minister Muraleedharan’s tweets came shortly after K Surendran, the BJP’s Kerala chief, threw his weight behind Mr Sreedharan, 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,” Mr Surendran said at a party meeting in Thiruvalla.
That was the second time in two weeks that Mr Surendran batted for Mr Sreedharan; last month, at an rally in Kasargod, he said the ‘metro man’ was “qualified to adorn any post… including Chief Minister”.
Earlier today Mr 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 was quoted by news agency ANI.
Mr 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 Mr Sreedharan 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 last month.
“If BJP wants, I will contest (the elections),” he said during an interview over the phone, adding, “(and) to tell you very frankly, unless I am Chief 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 Mr Sreedharan’s charisma and appeal will rub off on the party’s fortunes.
Mr 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 man’ would have a “minimal impact”.
Kerala will vote in a single phase on April 6 with results due May 2.
Mr 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.
With input from ANI, PTI