Thiruvananthapuram: It was a curious flip-flop, which left egg on the BJP’s face. Union Minister V Muraleedharan on Thursday took a sharp about-turn after he ‘mistakenly’ claimed that the BJP has announced 'Metroman' E Sreedharan as its chief ministerial face in the Kerala elections.
"Kerala BJP will fight Kerala polls with E Sreedharan Ji as its Chief Ministerial candidate. We will defeat both the CPM and the INC to provide corruption-free, development-oriented governance for the people of Kerala," Muraleedharan said in a tweet.
As the day wore on, the heightened buzz had many wondering what impact it will have on the rank and file, if ‘Metroman’ parachutes into the party. Some hours later, Muraleedharan backtracked and his tweet was deleted.
Also, a tepid explanation followed from the Union minister: "What I wanted to say was that through media reports I learnt that the party has made this announcement. Later, I cross-checked with the party chief who said that he has not made any such announcement."
Sources said a part of the problem is that Sreedharan is on the wrong side of 80 – in fact, he will turn 89 in June; the "unofficial" rule in the party is that nobody over 75 can be considered for a ministerial berth or role, though there are exceptions as well: BS Yediyurappa was 76 when he was sworn in as chief minister of Karnataka.
Many in the BJP feel that if Sreedharan is indeed the party’s chief ministerial face in the assembly elections, it would raise the stakes for the CPM and the Congress. The flip-flop came even as the decorated engineer belonging to Malabar retired from his position as advisor to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
The day also marked another feather in the distinguished engineer’s cap, with the final inspection of the controversial Palarivattam flyover, which was constructed during former chief minister Oommen Chandy’s tenure and was embroiled in a major corruption scandal.
Sreedharan’s other trophies include the reconstruction of the famous Pamban bridge of Rameshwaram, connecting the Pamban island in the sea to the mainland, and Konkan Railway, an engineering marvel. Not to forget a host of other prestigious projects, including Delhi and Kochi Metros. Although he had retired in the year 2011, he continued to serve as the chief advisor of DMRC.
It is ironical that his last assignment was in the LDF government, which had given him 9 months to complete the reconstruction of the Palarivattam flyover. But under Sreedharan’s leadership, the task was completed four months before the deadline.
The 88-year old engineer had indicated that he would be happy to contest from his home constituency of Ponnani. But it is learnt that the party would prefer the state capital. Sreedharan had claimed recently that the BJP could come to power in the state as people are fed up with both the LDF and the opposition UDF.