Not since the first political murder took place in Kannur, north Kerala, in 1969, has the CPM been under so much pressure to defend the actions of its cadre, and more importantly, one of its last citadels. It took the murder of a 34-year-old RSS activist in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram to bring this issue of “annihilation politics” on to the centre stage of national politics—Parliament. Though the CPM was aware Kerala has been on the radar of the ruling BJP and its president Amit Shah ever since it assumed power at the Centre, Marxist MPs did not expect such a concerted assault on the party in both Houses of Parliament. It took a while for them to recoup from the attack of BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, who charged how the Left has turned “God’s Own Country” into a “Godforsaken One”. By the time they tried to “set the facts right” despite the Speaker’s “partisan attitude”, as CPM Lok Sabha MP from Palakkad, M.B. Rajesh described it, the issue had hit the headlines. The BJP has now pushed their cause further by deciding to send senior leader Arun Jaitley to Thiruvananthapuram on a fact-finding mission, putting the CPM leadership on the back foot. Knowing the political fallout of Jaitley’s proposed visit to the slain RSS worker’s house, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury has offered his party’s readiness to open a direct dialogue with RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat to find ways to scale down, if not end, the bitter rivalry between the two ideologically warring parties.

What happened in Thiruvananthapuram last week was in the offing for quite some time now. As is the case with Kannur, the state capital too has become a hotbed of animosity between the two parties. It is a cause for worry that the state administration and the police ignored the vibes sent out by the cadres. It is here that the BJP’s claim of “state sponsorship” of organised violence by CPM gains credence. Hence the party’s finger of accusation goes straight to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is also handling the home portfolio. Setting this aside, there have been undercurrents in this fight for territorial supremacy after the 2014 general elections, when BJP’s veteran O. Rajagopal came second, pushing the Left Democratic Front to third position. This was followed by Rajagopal’s victory in the Assembly elections from nearby Nemam constituency, enabling the BJP to open its account in the state for the first time after its formation in 1956. In between the party had also come second, contrary to its own expectations, in the local elections, winning 35 wards in the 100-member municipal corporation. This had considerably curtailed the arbitrary functioning of the Left-controlled body. All these hurt the CPM most, which has, by its own admission, taken up cudgels against the “fascist” party. But somewhere down the line, a fight over ideology has blurred into one of sheer muscle power. The end result—unwanted bloodshed, and spewing of hatred. As leaders of both parties hugged and shook hands at so-called peace meets held at regular intervals, cadres drew daggers on the streets, killing each other, for what nobody knew.

Somewhere down the line, a fight over ideology has blurred into one of sheer muscle power. As leaders of both parties hugged and shook hands at so-called peace meets held at regular intervals, cadres drew daggers on the streets, killing each other, for what nobody knew.

On every occasion, as is also the case in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, both sides reel out statistics without fail and vow in the name of tolerance in a democratic set-up. If it was a Prahlad Joshi on one side, it will be a Karunakaran on the other. But the ground reality is that the number of “martyrs” and “balidanis” keeps mounting. And the leadership openly collects funds and buckets of sympathy in the name of “orphaned” families. As Sreenivasan, a popular Malayalam film actor very candidly put it some time ago: “No dead bodies reach any of the leaders’ houses.” Their children and brothers are very much in the safe zones; none of their women is widowed or they have not lost their children. The responsibility for this mindless violence squarely rests on the doorsteps of the leaders of both the political spectrum. Who will stop them from inciting cadres every now and then to fulfil their political ends? Not long ago the CPM state secretary got away with an open call for violence when he told his partymen to “settle scores then and there”. The challenge was immediately taken up by one of the fiery leaders of the BJP, who said “murder will be met with murder”. No police of Pinarayi Vijayan dared to book them. But each time a murder happens, leaders belonging to both parties vehemently deny any involvement of their cadre in the heinous crime. This is very much the case with the CPM leadership, which later makes it a point to openly greet the accused with red garlands and arranges legal support for them, not to speak of taking care of their families with financial support. A corpus fund has been set up in the party for this alone. Some claim same is the case with BJP.

So what should one read about the offer for talks by Yechury, or, for that matter, Rajagopalan sitting across the table with Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala, talking of peace? Isn’t it admission enough that their cadres are indeed involved in the murders? Yes, it is. But sadly as long the CPM leadership visits only the houses of slain CPM workers or the BJP leadership visits the houses of only BJP/RSS workers, the message of peace will fail to cut across. 

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