The high-voltage drama enacted during the election of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat may have shifted the political spotlight from the Kerala killings for the time being. While the visit of senior BJP leader and number two in the Union Cabinet, Arun Jaitley may have helped the state party unit shift focus from its internal strife, for the ruling CPM the visit has provided the much-needed breathing space before its cadre take to the streets and unleash another bout of violence.
Days before Jaitley’s visit, the CPM was facing the heat following the murder of a young RSS volunteer in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram, and the subsequent summoning of the Chief Minister by Governor P. Sathasivam. The CPM did try to divert the focus from the political murder by raising questions about the constitutional legality of the Governor summoning an elected Chief Minister of a state and seeking an explanation about the law and order situation. But the fact that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan rushed to Raj Bhavan without even consulting his Cabinet colleagues or the party, was seen as an attempt by the Marxist leader to keep his position safe. Vijayan came in for sharp criticism for this hurried action, by the second largest constituent of the Left Democratic Front, CPI and the opposition Congress. Both cited the case of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to go to the Kolkata Raj Bhavan when state Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi summoned her over the communal flare-up in Basirhat. Banerjee had successfully made political capital out of it by even alleging that the Governor had tried to threaten and browbeat her. Though some in the Kerala CPM, other than the CPI and Congress, too had wanted Vijayan to do the same, the realisation came too late. Party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan tried to defend Vijayan by practically going into a discourse on the multi-dimensional meaning of the word “summon”. He cut a sorry figure in this attempt as it failed to assuage the feelings of the party rank and file, not to speak of the opposition Congress.
So the visit of Jaitley and before that the uproar in Parliament unleashed by the firebrand BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi over the “Talibani style” killings in Kerala, helped the CPM divert attention over the failure of its government in containing violence in the state capital and instead goad the cadre with the usual dose of need to fight against “fascist policies of the Centre”. Moreover, the Chief Minister had called yet another all-party meet to discuss the killings the day Jaitley landed in Thiruvananthapuram. People in the state are by now so used to these meetings, which are just an eyewash to bargain for time by all parties concerned, that no one bothers. It only helps the government of the day plaster over the gory incidents. These types of meetings date back to the 1980s when RSS and CPM leaders sat across the table in Delhi and chalked out a process to lasting peace in the state. But then the CPM leadership backtracked, saying it could not convince its Kannur cadre to toe the line. Naturally, this was followed by more killings and more bloodshed. So the majority of Kerala’s population has developed a cynical attitude towards these drummed up meetings. One such memorable meeting was the one initiated by the late Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, a known Left sympathiser, at his residence in Ernakulam in 1999. However, just two days later, K.T. Jayakrishnan Master, vice-president of the state Yuva Morcha, was hacked to death in front of his students in a classroom in Koothuparambu, Kannur. Even as the state struggled to recover from the shock, large-scale violence was unleashed allegedly by CPM cadre. From then on the state must have lost count of the all-party meets and talk of peace.
This time too things are not going to be different. Naturally there will be a lull before violence erupts again. The only difference is that BJP has succeeded in bringing the issue of killings, confined so far within the state, to the national scene. This might act as a restraint on the part of CPM not to let loose its cadre and invite the wrath of the Central government. But since the party is in power in Kerala, invariably the leadership down the line tends to take the law into its own hands. Especially when the police force becomes mute spectators, as is the case whenever the party is in power. Remember, the party in the state is currently led by someone who had threatened not long ago to make police stations in the state into bomb-making units. On the other hand, it would be wise on the part of the state BJP not to be carried away by the support extended to it by the leadership in Delhi. As it is the state leadership is struggling to contain factional feuds among its leaders, which has affected the image of the party in the state. Stakes are high for both CPM and BJP in the state. So it is better for both parties not to play into each other’s hands by means of violence.