Metro man E Sreedharan , likely to be BJP-led NDA’s presidential candidate
New Delhi, June15:The exclusion of ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan’s name from the dignitaries who would share the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the latter would inaugurate the Kochi Metro train on Saturday (June 17) has created brouhaha. The Pinari Vijayan government of Kerala has written to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) asking it to revise the seating plan on the dais and include Sreedharan among others.
However, sources told India Today that PMO has deliberately omitted Sreedharan’s name even though he has played a pivotal role in the building of Kochi Metro.
METRO MAN IN THE LOOP
“In fact, there is a strong probability of Sreedharan being nominated as the ruling BJP-led NDA’s candidate for the president’s post in the July 17 election. It would be improper if he is seen sitting with PM Modi and Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on the dais just days before the name of the NDA candidate is announced. Moreover, PM Modi maintains distance with the person he has to push up,” the sources said.
PMO has kept Sreedharan in the loop, they added. This is one of the reasons why the ‘Metro Man’ did not object to his exclusion because he in the know of things.
According to reports, the Kerala government had submitted to PMO a list of 17 people who it wanted to share the dais with PM Narendra Modi. The list included the names of Sreedharan, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, former CM Oommen Chandy, local legislator PT Thomas Chennithala and Chief Secretary Nailin Netto, among others.
But the PMO approved the names of just six people. They include Kerala Governor P Sathasivam, Venkaiah Naidu, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala’s Transport Minister Thomas Chandy, local MP KV Thomas and Kochi Mayor Soumini Jain.
Kochi Metro Rail Corp Managing Director Elias George told the media that the final list was made by PMO and they did not have any role in this.
The PMO’s decision to omit Sreedharan’s name has created a furore with the Opposition lambasting the ruling BJP. Reacting to it, PT Thomas said, “This shows the arrogance of the BJP… When the foundation stone for Kochi Metro was laid by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, none was left out from the dais. This is Kerala’s dream project and key people behind this are now asked to sit in the audience. This is totally unfair.”
The Kerala government has also written to PMO to revise the list.
UNPERTURBED BY THE CONTROVERSY
However, the man at the centre of the controversy is least perturbed. According to reports, he said there was “nothing unusual about the decision and that he accepted it”. He said he had no complaints and that he would certainly attend the function. “No need to raise controversy over this issue. The Prime Minister’s security is more important. I am not at all hurt,” he told a section of the media.
The sources said BJP had initially decided to nominate Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as the NDA’s candidate for the president’s post. He is considered close to PM Modi being the latter’s Man Friday. The PM trusts Jaitley to the extent that the latter was given the defence portfolio twice.
The other BJP leaders whose names were in the reckoning were LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, MM Joshi and Sumitra Mahajan. But Jaitley was considered the most suitable for the post. His acceptability among most of the political parties, including the Opposition, was one of the important points which went in his favour.
However, Jaitley declined the offer. Had he agreed to the original plan, PM Modi would have got a chance to appoint someone else to steer the economy as the finance minister. Also, it would have been for the second consecutive that an incumbent finance minister would have been elevated as president. President Pranab Mukherjee is the first one in this regard.
After Jaitley refused the offer, BJP’s choice has fallen on Sreedharan, the sources said.
They said the next president is likely to be from the southern part of the country – be he Sreedharan, Kerala Governor P Sathasivam or superstar Rajinikanth. The move is aimed at garnering more people support during the 2019 general elections.