Kerala is no stranger to political violence between the CPI(M) on one side and prominent political parties on the other. But all these years the slugfest and bloodbath had remained confined to Kannur, the red party’s bastion in the state.
Understandably peace talks after peace talks could bring little respite to the violence in Kannur as CPI(M) would never tolerate political activity by any other party in its biggest stronghold.
Perhaps the BJP had been the only political outfit that could give a semblance of resistance using the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the last three decades or so in the district.
But when this CPM-BJP hostility spills over not just to the adjoining districts of Kannur but reaches the state capital with bombs being hurled at BJP’s regional office in Nemom, a few kilometres outside Thiruvananthapuram, this new pattern certainly holds more political hues to it than what meets the eye of the commoner.
It would be an understatement to say that the 2019 Lok Sabha polls’ number game in Kerala is crucial for both the CPM and the BJP alike. Political pundits say the violence in Kerala today is a precursor to this immediate target.
It is absolutely vital for the CPM because two years after being in power with a brute majority, it would be time to know the verdict of the people half way through. Any setback will have the knives out for an already off-colour Chief Minister and his coterie of ministers.
For the BJP, gone are days of increasing the vote share. Amit Shah in his recent visit had made it very clear to the state BJP leaders that the message from the centre is “perform or perish”.
BJP and RSS’s top brass feel that the state leadership had been given a long rope far too long and it only baffles them that in spite of having a tremendous organisational power in the state vis-à-vis the RSS, the party had failed to make substantial in-roads except the old war horse O Rajagopal pulling it off with an assembly seat more on his own merit.
Hence Kerala is certainly the BJP’s final frontier with the party gearing up to do whatever it takes to win big in the state and the CPM would oppose it tooth and nail.
“The CPM has no other way to counter the onslaught of the BJP with the RSS at the forefront than unleash violence. They have to keep their cadre’s morale high to the run up to the 2019 election which is a crucial strategy for any cadre based party. This is a power struggle that will continue till one gains supremacy over the other,’’ CR Neelakandan, noted political analyst told Asianet Newsable.
People like Neelakandan feel that the attack on Sitaram Yechury in Delhi was just the right excuse that the CPM in Kerala was waiting for. A closer examination of the alleged attack on Yechury would reveal more.
The CPM general secretary neither suffered verbal abuse nor was he physically heckled as claimed by many of the left-oriented media groups in the state. It was mere sloganeering by a fringe group called ‘Hindu Sena’ as per eyewitnesses’ claims. But in no time the blame was put on RSS because the name itself would evoke very strong emotions amongst the left intelligentsia in the state and a response was certain.
The BJP claims that it was done just to incite violence in the state and use it to suffocate the party’s progress.
“Even when the Delhi police are saying that it was some Hindu Sena which was involved, only in Kerala the RSS’s name is alleged. CPM purposely created this story to start a chain of violence against us which had the blessings of the state government,’’ BJP General Secretary K Surendran told Asianet Newsable.
Surendran reiterates that it is not the first time such incidents have been placed on Sangh Parivar’s head. “See there was a story about bombs being hurled at a programme attended by CPM secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in Thalaserry by some RSS workers a few months ago. Finally, nothing came out of the police investigation even though violence was instigated in its name also,’’ added Surendran.
But many political analysts say that these words of the BJP need to be taken with a pinch of salt and that the party is twisting the Yechury episode to play the victim card in Kerala where the BJP understands very clearly that the CPM actually stands to lose if it is projected that the Pinarayi Vijayan government had failed to maintain the law and order in the state.
Though there is no proof for it, the CPM makes a counter claim that the visit of Shah to Kerala, his dissatisfaction with the state leadership of the party and then the attack on Yechury should all be read on the same page.
“Amit Shah and the BJP are desperate because their plans are not working in Kerala. The attack on Comrade Sitaram and many other incidents in Kerala of the recent past only indicate the desperation on the part of the Sangh Parivar and forces connected with it. They tried to woo the minorities for which they got a clear slap in Malappuram by-election. So now this is the new plan to incite violence and fish from those troubled waters,’’ added MA Baby, CPM Polit Bureau Member.
The claims of both the parties over the attack on Yechury are unlikely to die down anytime soon.
But political pundits in the state say that Kerala might see a dramatic shift in the political power equations in coming few years that could result in the BJP replacing the Congress as the primary political opponent of the CPM in the state.
The intense political duel seen in the state between the BJP and the CPM with the Congress nowhere in the picture is perhaps pointing towards this new equation when the dust settles.
Also with the Congress party still losing its ground across the country, there is nothing new offered by the Kerala leadership which promises a revival for India’s grand old party in God’s own country.
“See the present violence is not about the attack on Sitaram alone. That provocation had surely died down after the initial chaos. But here it in the interest of the BJP to express themselves as the counter to the CPM and that is what we see in the form of this violence. There is certainly a void created by the poor leadership of the Congress, and the BJP’s game plan is to move in and occupy that position,’’ says C Gouridasan Nair, Bureau Head of The Hindu who had been covering politics in the state for more than three decades now.
The latest fiasco over Fazal’s killing in Thalaserry is also a part of this intense churning where both the parties are blaming each other for the murder of the Popular Front activist way back in 2006.
Though the police during the former LDF government’s term had found CPM workers to be behind the murder, a new video declaration by an RSS activist and an old audio clip brought out by the CPM puts the Sangh Parivar in the dock. The BJP claims that by raking up a case 11-years-old the CPM is only playing the communal card here for its long time gains.
Perhaps the CPM has little choice as the BJP under Shah embarks on a huge thrust to get the votes of the Christians, the second largest minorities in the state.
Polarisation could certainly be the most common word in Kerala now in the run up to the 2019 polls as a weak Congress will only make the divisions stronger in picking either the CPM or the BJP camp.