The arrest of P Jayarajan, the CPI (M) district secretary of Kannur in northern Kerala, although on the cards for the last few days, is a huge body-blow to the leadership of the party in the state for many reasons.
One, he was the strongman of the CPM in a district that is organisationally the strongest for the party in the state and the catchment area for its top leadership. The party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and two of his strong acolytes, coincidentally also named Jayarajan with different initials (substitutes for surnames), are from the district.
Two, it is a direct blow to Pinarayi Vijayan because Jayarajan is considered to be very close to him. He is also under investigation for another murder in the district, which is currently being probed by the CBI.
Three, it demolishes the invincibility of the CPM and its leadership in terms of its strong arm tactics. Although the CPM leaders and functionaries had been alleged to be involved in several murder cases in the district, usually the investigation doesn’t go beyond the assailants.
It’s been alleged that often police, irrespective of the government in power, books people from a list that is furnished by the party. The home minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan recently said that the era of investigation based on such lists is over and the police will go to the root of the conspiracy behind the murders. This is in fact the first such case, where a top leader is arrested for a murder, and hence should send strong signals to the party leaders and the cadre.
Four, a recent statement by the CPM’s national leadership in connection with the murder of a dissident leader TP Chandrasekharan had claimed that the party wouldn’t brook criminality and those with such behaviour will be thrown out. With the arrest of Jayarajan, there will be increasing pressure from the public, the media and the opposition for action against him and those who could have colluded with him. However, the party will try to buy time either by saying that it will do its own investigation or wait for a court verdict. Its first reaction has been to dismiss the action as “politically motivated”.
In the wake of the arrest, widespread violence has been reported from Kannur district and elsewhere in the state indicating the impact of the arrest on the party apparatus. Reports indicate that the party leadership was more or less sure of his arrest and had planned these protests in advance.
Interestingly, the murder that had really pushed the CPM into an unprecedented crisis was that of Chandrasekharan. About 60 people with links to the party, including some local leaders, have been arrested in connection with the case. Although there have been speculations that the investigation might lead all the way to Jayarajan, latest reports suggest that the leads on the case have gone cold beyond those presently arrested.
Although the murder of Chandrasekharan dominated the public and media debates in Kerala for two months, which also gave considerable ammunition to the opposition to accuse the CPM of “murderous politics”, for the last two weeks there has not been any new development on the case.
Suddenly the Shukkoor murder case, for which Jayarajan was arrested today, will revive the allegations against the CPM.
The CPM is really in the dock for three murders now: that of Chandrasekharan, Shukkoor and Fazal. Many of its leaders and functionaries are in jail in connection with these cases, which are under investigation.
The arrest of Jayarajan also saw the meltdown of dissent by VS Achuthanandan, who was recently censured by the CPM national leadership for his dissident behaviour. The party completely supported with the state leadership and secretary Vijayan and asked Achuthanandan to mend his ways.
When the party was under the cloud of suspicion for Chandrasekharan’s murder, Achuthanandan didn’t side with its official line and in fact fuelled the suspicion that the party was indeed involved.
But this time, he was among the first to slam the arrest of Jayarajan. Perhaps he knows that it is too late and his words are not going to help the image of the party.