Kerala political killings: Ongoing stand-off between CPM, BJP is more than the usual one-upmanship

The hostility between the CPM and the BJP have been a part and parcel of Kerala’s political landscape but the present stand-off seems to be more than just the usual political one-upmanship.

In what looks like more of an irreversible do or die battle for supremacy in a state, which is the last recognised bastion of the Communist forces in the country, the RSS, which otherwise keeps away from getting caught in a political squabble, has certainly turned on the heat on its old adversary.

On Friday, when the Sah-Sarakaryvah or in simpler termed the joint general secretary of the RSS Dattatreya Hosabale, little known to the people of the Kerala, called a press meet at Delhi almost asking for the ouster of the Pinarayi Vijayan government on what he termed as a ‘complete breakdown of law and order in the state’, the message was clear: if the CPM does not rein its warring cadre in Kerala then the consequences would be bitter.

File image of CPM in Kerala. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“The BJP and the RSS have lost 14 of its workers to the CPM brutality in Kerala and the government is not doing enough to stop this cycle of violence. The RSS never advocates president’s rule but if the state government is not able to discharge its Constitutional duties, then is there any other option?’’ Hosabale posed the question to mediapersons.

This is not the first time the RSS had raised the question of imposing the president’s rule in Kerala. It did that in January too when the violence in Kannur had reached suffocating levels with the BJP taking out a protest march in Delhi.

However, the present bout of political temperature is seen by many in Kerala as an attempt to not let the CPM and its chief minister wash their hands of their accountability. The RSS seems to have made up its mind to take control of the situation in Kerala and there are specific reasons for it. Towing the line of its ideological partner, the BJP has brought in Union minister Arun Jaitley whose visit to the state on Sunday would surely take this boiling issue to the brim.

Jaitley is set to visit the house of Rajesh, the RSS Karyavah from Thiruvananthapuram who was hacked to death by local goons owing allegiance to the CPM.

The defence minister who is expected to take part in a commemoration event for Rajesh would also meet other victims of alleged CPM brutality in the capital city.

If sources are to be believed, more such visits are likely in the coming few weeks.

RSS takes control

Political analysts in the state say that a strong intervention by the state RSS was inevitable considering the pitiable state of affairs that the BJP finds itself in.

That the BJP in the state had been on the back foot since the news of corruption stumbled out from within the party itself a few weeks ago, is a well-documented fact. If senior sources in the state unit are to be believed, Amit Shah has been terribly upset over the loss of face the party had suffered in Kerala.

“We should realise that in Kerala the RSS had always been more powerful than the BJP at the grassroots. In fact, there are more RSS shakhas in Kerala than in Gujarat. Now with the BJP state leadership proving to be an utter failure, it was only a matter of time until the RSS intervened. But then the situation becomes more precarious for the CPM as dealing with the RSS is not like dealing with the BJP which is a political party,’’ veteran journalist BRP Bhaskar told Firstpost.

The CPM leadership in Kerala which has gone into a huddle over these developments says that the RSS-BJP combine’s game plan is to break fragile peace process that has been set into motion by the Chief Minister at the behest of the State Governor this week.

The party claims that by stepping up tensions, the RSS  is only helping the BJP to get away from the taint of corruption that has hit the state following revelations of taking kick back in the medical colleges' admission scam.

“Understandably, the RSS wants to keep up the tensions in Kerala because they want to divert the focus from the rampant corruption charge that has shamed the BJP in the state. So they will try all sorts of provocations. But we have given strict orders to our cadre to be restrained during this time,’’ Thomas Isaac, CPM leader and finance minister told Firstpost.

Political analysts also agree that keeping the focus on the present political tensions is a ploy to divert public attention from the corruption charges.

“For the BJP perhaps the biggest tool that the party now has against the state government is to inflate the issue of law and order. Dattatreya’s statement and Jaitley’s visit should be seen in that light. I am not saying that the CPM has not played its part in the political killings. Certainly, they have blood on their hands. But the BJP has now got a big political tool to wriggle out of the corruption taint,’’ noted political analyst NM Pearson told Firstpost.

CPM has itself to blame

Meanwhile, the central leadership of the CPM, which is equally upset over the turn of events, also agrees that if the BJP has been given a political tool on a platter then it is the state unit of the party that has to take the blame for it.

Sitaram Yechury is said to have spoken out on the issue at the polit bureau in Delhi which was then forced to issue a statement that portrayed the party as the victim of the alleged RSS attack in Kerala in reply to Dattatreya’s allegations.

This was followed by CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan throwing an open challenge to Modi and team to dare dismiss the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala.

But Kodiyeri’s statements seemed more like posturing as leaders such as Thomas Isaac went on to concede that the party had indeed fallen into BJP’s game plan and to answer their provocations with ‘an eye for an eye’ was nothing but political suicide.

“Our cadre should have been more responsible because we are the party in power. Take the case of that CPM councillor who was caught on camera attacking the BJP state office in Thiruvananthapuram. He was certainly angry when his house was attacked by the RSS. But you cannot let such emotions get the better of you. It compromises the party politically and you ultimately play into the hands of the Opposition,’’ Isaac added.

That the top brass of the CPM is shaken by this sustained political onslaught of the RSS is evident from Yechury's statement when he said that he was ready for a peace talk with the RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat on the Kerala killings.

“It is actually baffling that Yechury expressed his desire to talk with a non-political entity like the RSS on such an issue. This clearly shows that the CPM is actually worried and is playing into the hands of the RSS and BJP,’’ added Bhaskar.

If the attack on the BJP state committee office at Thiruvananthapuram embarrassed the CPM, the killing of the RSS Karyavah put them totally on the back foot especially when the FIR claimed that the perpetrators had CPM connections.

It gave the BJP enough fodder to fire its cannons on the chief minister alleging that Vijayan has failed to prevent the deteriorating law and order situation especially when there was an intelligence input on the possibility of an attack on the BJP office.

File image of RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale. Firstpost

File image of RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale. Firstpost

A CCTV footage had clearly shown that those policemen standing guard at the BJP office were unable to prevent the attack and one police who tried to stop the attackers suffered injuries while other police personnel looked on as mute spectators.

That all this was happening in the heart of the city, in the dead of the night when the BJP state president was sleeping inside, helped the BJP inflame it as a total break down of law and order.

“The government makes promises that it will do everything possible to stop the violence but does nothing. We have held such peace talks before also but the CPM has never ever stood by any of the promises they have made in the past. Whenever there is a political murder, CPM will justify it and go into denial mode. All this only shows that the CPM has no commitment to end this violence,’’ BJP general secretary MT Ramesh told Firstpost.

Political activists point out that it is the lack of will on the part of the CPM leadership to restrain its cadre that is not giving a chance to end the cycle of violence.

“The CPM is in power in Kerala and it needs to ensure that law and order is intact. But how will you do it when the party itself thrives on political violence to keep its cadre in high spirits. CPM can never survive without advocating violent politics especially at a time when the party is losing relevance everywhere,’’ noted political activists CR Neelakandan told Firstpost.

The terror bogey

On Thursday and Friday, every English news channel in the country except the one facing the ire of the Income Tax department these days had gone to town with the political violence in Kerala. ‘Kerala’s Killing Fields’ were among the top trending topics over social media on these days.

The CPM has alleged that the BJP government at the Centre is using a section of the national media to keep the topic alive in the public perception and has unleashed an anti-Kerala campaign across north India featuring only the murders of RSS and BJP workers while concealing the murders committed on CPM cadre over the last three decades in the state.

But perhaps, what exceeded all limits was a claim by the RSS that the state government in Kerala was hand-in-glove with Islamic State recruiters and the recent episode of youngsters from the state travelling to Syria to fight for Islamic State was a result of this appeasement and soft approach.

“See the BJP is frustrated because in Kerala inspite of putting all efforts, they have so far not been able to polarise the voters or to get inroads the way they wanted. So now they are bringing in baseless allegations against the government so as to divide the people,’’ CPM polit bureau member from Kerala MA Baby told Firstpost.

On Sunday, the BJP has made elaborate plans for Jaitley to meet families of RSS and BJP workers who have been killed or maimed in alleged CPM attacks. The CPM, on the other hand, has demanded that the Union minister should meet the CPM families also who have lost their near and dear ones. This battle is certainly not likely to end anytime soon.

Updated Date: Aug 07, 2017 08:12 AM

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