Thiruvananthapuram had a fair share of the Sabarimala agitation. Many political pundits think that the fallout of the Sabarimala agitation may swing the majority Hindu voters.
New Delhi: In an attempt to win at least one seat from Kerala in the coming Lok Sabha elections, the RSS has prevailed upon the BJP central leadership to field Mizoram Governor till Friday, Kummanam Rajasekharan, from the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram constituency. If there is any constituency where the BJP can hope to win in the communist-ruled state, it is the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, currently represented by Congress’ poster-boy Shashi Tharoor for two consecutive terms. While the Congress is yet to finalise any of its candidates in the state, the ruling Left Front has named CPI’s senior leader and a local sitting MLA, C. Divakaran as its candidate in the constituency. If Congress decides to field Tharoor once again, which is considered a foregone conclusion, then Thiruvananthapuram is set to hog international attention in this elections. There has been a clamour within and outside the BJP to bring Kummanam back into state politics, especially in the wake of the party’s months-long Save Sabarimala campaign against the entry of young women into the Ayyappa temple. Thiruvananthapuram has been a somewhat fertile ground for the BJP. The party’s lone legislator in the current Assembly, O. Rajagopal, was the party’s candidate here in the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections, coming runner-up both the times. In fact last time, Tharoor scrambled home by just about 15,000 odd votes, not a great margin in a parliamentary election. In the 2016 Assembly elections, Rajasekharan had contested from Vattiyurkkavu, an urban constituency, and had come second pushing CPM to third position. Thiruvananthapuram had a fair share of the Sabarimala agitation thanks to its proximity to Pathanamthitta di strict, the abode of Lord Ayyappa. Many political pundits think that the fallout of the Sabarimala agitation may swing the majority Hindu voters, though cosmopolitan, in the constituency towards the BJP. But then, as they say, Kummanam Rajasekharan is not O. Rajagopal.
The return of Rajasekharan to state politics is as dramatic as his departure last May. Remember, he was catapulted to Aizawl just two days before the end of campaign to a byelection in the state, which was being headed by Kummanam. In fact BJP state leaders were stunned when the news came out, dampening the spirit of the cadre. On both occasions, the BJP central leadership has not bothered to take state leaders into confidence. The only difference is that if the central leadership had overruled RSS objections while posting Rajasekharan as Mizoram governor, this time the leadership was given an ultimatum by the RSS to bring him back. The central leadership is full well aware that without the RSS, the party is rootless in the state. Many had thought that Kummanam, a steadfast RSS man, would head the party once again in the run-up to the elections. When he was brought in as president in 2015 too he was not a member of the BJP. He was the general secretary of the Hindu Aikya Vedi, a conglomeration of various Hindu bodies formed to “protect Hindus, their culture, heritage and temples”. The Aikya Vedi spearheaded by Rajasekharan played a crucial role in the high octane 1983 Nilakkal agitation against Christians who wanted to build a church at the Hindu pilgrimage centre, once again in Pathanamthitta district. He was instrumental, along with leading environmentalists such as poet-activist Sugathakumari, in stopping the construction of a new airport in central Kerala’s Aaranmula. Here too it was found that the airport would affect the temple there, famous worldwide for its mirrors that bring luck and prosperity to the beholder. That many of his Aikya Vedi friends are now with CPM’s Pinarayi Vijayan and his “second renaissance wall” to counter the growth of Sangh Parivar in the state is another matter altogether.
Still the import of Rajasekharan’s presence among the BJP, notwithstanding some grumblings over RSS dominance, cannot be minimised; that too while looking at Kerala politics post the Sabarimala agitation. Sabarimala is reportedly at the top of the agenda at a conclave of the Akhil Bharatiya Prathinidhi Sabha, the highest decision-making body of the RSS, which is in session in Gwalior. “The Kerala government is committing excesses against the Hindu devotees in the garb of implementing Supreme Court’s decision to allow women into the Ayyappa temple,” a top RSS leader was quoted as saying at the meeting. Which better man in Kerala the RSS can look for in implementing its policies than Kumanm Rajasekharan? “I had wanted to return to active politics for some time. Then there was some work to be finished in Mizoram. Hence the delay. Now I and the party are ready,” Kummanam told newspersons. Rajasekharan’s gubernatorial posting has lasted only nine months. “Let anybody come to contest in Thiruvananthapuram. It is for the people to decide whose policies and beliefs they should support,” Tharoor said. The biggest advantage for Kummanam is that he was far away from Kerala during the Sabarimala turmoil and cannot be attributed to any controversial opinion from his part on the subject. But still, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kummanam Rajasekharan has a task cut out for him. We will come to know the result in three months’ time.