'Metroman' E Sreedharan's decision to join the Bharatiya Janata Party has given a boost to the saffron's hopes to make huge electoral inroads in Kerala, one of the toughest political terrains for the party, in the assembly polls likely to be held in April.
But the two major players in the state politics -- ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front -- seem to be not too much bothered about the 88-year-old technocrat's decision to join the BJP in the politically volatile southern state dominated by the two alliances.
Describing Sreedharan as 'a great person', senior CPI-M leader and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he was eligible to handle any position.
"He is a great person. A well-known technocrat. A person honoured by the country with Padma Shri.He is eligible to handle any position. Let everything happen as per his wishes," Vijayan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
The BJP in Kerala hopes Sreedharan's entry will boost the party's vote share especially by winning the support of the middle class.
Party senior leader B Radhakrishna Menon said Sreedharan's decision to work with the BJP gives a new hope and expectation for Kerala's development.
"His decision to join the BJP has given a boost to the morale of our party workers in the state. The development of Kerala will be a main issue in the coming Assembly polls," Menon told PTI.
While Left leaders criticised Sreedharan's decision, senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy said although his opinion about Sreedharan was good, he was saddened by the technocrat's decision to join the BJP.
"Sreedharan is a good engineer.But it seems like he does not have any understanding of the history of the country," said CPI-M state secretary in-charge A Vijayaraghavan, reacting to his decision to join the saffron party.
CPI leader and Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam flayed Sreedharan's statement that he will be open to chief ministership if the BJP wins power in the assembly polls.
"Sreedharan said he was ready to become the chief minister. However, this wise man went and joined a corrupt party. He joined the BJP without seeing or knowing anything. Seems like he is in a daze since joining the saffron party," Viswam said.
Vijayaraghavan also took on Sreedharan for criticising Vijayan in one of his interviews given to the media.
Responding to Sreedharan's allegations that Kerala was witnessing a dictatorship under Vijayan's rule, the CPI-M leader said his remarks against the chief minister were 'irrational'.
"His words show that he has no faith in democracy here," Vijayaraghavan said.
J Prabhash, political analyst and former political science professor with the University of Kerala, said: "He is a self-proclaimed chief minister candidate who believes that people will follow him."
"By saying that people will follow him if he is projected as the chief ministerial candidate, he is taking the people of Kerala for granted," he said.
Prabhash, former pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University, said people respect him as an engineer, an upright professional with an unblemished career.
"When he speaks politics, there will be a counter narrative which he should be prepared to accept. Which he won't. He has not faced anything like that," he said.
A political observer, who did not wish to be named, said the BJP hopes the entry of Sreedharan, an icon of probity in public life, will boost the party's vote share in the state.
"He is an icon of probity in public life. This will help him to have a peer influence in Kerala's middle class society," he said.
The much-admired technocrat's entry into politics through the BJP was announced on Thursday by state party chief K Surendran at a press conference in Kozhikode.
The BJP said Sreedharan will join the party during its two-week long 'Vijaya Yatra' commencing on Sunday from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram to 'expose the misrule' of the present LDF government and previous dispensation led by UDF and prepare the party's ground for the Assembly elections.
Sreedharan, who is credited with changing the face of public transport system in the country, has said he was joining the BJP to ensure justice for the people of Kerala who were being deprived of the fruits of development due to the 'self-centric' attitude of the CPI(M)-led LDF government.