NEW DELHI: Rajagopal, MLA from Nemom and the first-ever BJP member in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, told The Sunday Guardian that the BJP is expected to win 50 to 60 seats in Thiruvanathapuram in the recent local body polls. He said, “Because of the gold smuggling case, the people of Kerala want clean governance and corruption-free and transparent government; people will be voting for BJP.”

In the gold smuggling case, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s former Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar is the fifth accused. According to the Enforcement Directorate, Sivasankar used his influence to covertly smuggle gold through diplomatic channels. Sivasankar was arrested on 24 November in the gold smuggling case. Swapna Suresh, who is a former employee of the UAE consulate, is the key accused. Because of M. Sivasankar’s involvement in the case, the Opposition parties in Kerala had targeted Kerala CM and made a poll issue during the local body elections.

The Opposition parties had suspected the CM’s direct involvement in the case and demanded his resignation.  Talking about the participation of electorates for the local body polls, 91-year-old BJP veteran leader Rajagopal said, “Normally, it is considered that the residents of cities do not participate and exercise their voting rights. But this time it is different. As far as the Thiruvanathapuram Municipal Corporation is concerned, 70% of polling has happened during the first phase of the elections. By the overwhelming percentage of voting happening in a city like Thiruvananthapuram, we are expecting a big win in the corporation and the people are voting for a change.”

In the last local body elections, conducted in 2015, the BJP had won 34 seats in the Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation. Talking about the revolt against BJP state president K. Surendran, he said, “There is no rift between the state leadership in Kerala. All the leaders are working together. It is just an assumption of the media. There is no dissent in the party leadership.”

Last month, a section of leaders had raised the banner of revolt against Surendran, who is considered to be a close aide of Minister of State External Affairs V. Muraleedharan. As per the leaders, after Surendran’s elevation as party president, many leaders were sidelined. Sobha Surendran, P.M. Velayudhan and K.P. Sreesan expressed displeasure openly. After dissent came out in the open, the BJP Central leadership asked the state leaders to sort out the issue.