What the BJP and its cohorts don’t tell you about ‘political violence’ in the Malayalee land
The Sangh Parivar has unleashed a systematic campaign against Kerala and its people. Citing the political killings in the state, the BJP and its Sangh brethren argue that law and order in the state has collapsed, and the pro-Centre, Pro-Modi electronic media have been echoing the same. The trigger for the latest spell of this campaign was the killing of an RSS worker in state capital Thiruvananthapuram on July 30 following which the BJP government-appointed Governor P. Sathasivam summoned Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to express concerns. Union ministers say they don’t trust Kerala to conduct impartial inquiry, while the RSS has demanded a CBI probe. Though there was a state government-mediated peace talk between the RSS and the CPI(M) and the government expressed hope that tensions would subside soon, the BJP at the centre kept upping the ante. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley will visit Kerala on Sunday to meet the family of Rajesh, the RSS worker killed in Thiruvananthapuram.
The BJP campaigns claim the RSS is being hunted down by the Left in Kerala. The truth is, as facts suggest, the other way. The BJP clearly lacks mass base in Kerala, but the right-wing organisation has built a powerful organisational apparatus, which has unleashed violence against Left activists. According to Sneha Koshy of NDTV, police records between years 2000 and 2017 show that 85 of the 172 victims of political violence in Kerala are CPI(M) activists. Of the rest, 65 were from the BJP/RSS, 11 from the Congress and 11 from the Muslim League. If one looks at Kannur, the CPIM’s bastion and the so-called hotbed of political violence in Kerala, between 2000 and 2016, 68 people died in political violence. Of this, 30 belonged to the CPIM, 31 to BJP/RSS and the rest to other parties, according to FactChecker. Even if one takes the number of political killings that occurred since the Left government came to power in 2016, a majority of the victims were CPI(M) members.
Cycle of violence
Obviously, and evidently, the Left is not innocent. Rather, both the RSS and the Left are involved in this cycle of violence and, historically speaking, RSS activists have killed more Left activists in Kerala. This spiral of political violence has a history that dates back to the 1970s. Both sides had targeted their leaders in the past. P. Jayarajan, the Kannur district committee secretary of the CPI(M) himself is a victim of RSS violence. Given the historical roots of the conflict, a sustainable solution needs both sides to be involved in structured talks with the state government facilitating talks and guaranteeing security. But without trying for that, the BJP is giving a totally different spin to the crisis — Hindus are not safe in Kerala. Swarajya, the right wing magazine that backs the Sangh, has already run a venom-spewing article blatantly lying that the Left is the primary enemy of Hindus.
There’s a strategy behind this plan. One, Kerala’s murder politics has remained a political problem, unlike in other states where the Sangh was involved in communal violence. In places where communal violence occurs, it’s easier for the Sangh or other communal outfits to polarise voters and make political benefits out of it. That strategy doesn’t work in Kerala as Sangh’s primary enemy in the state remains a political party, not a religious group or organisation. So the latest attempt is to give a Left-versus-Hindu colour through which Sangh organisations may be hoping to polarise Kerala’s society around its agenda. Secondly, a sustained campaign against Kerala will allow the BJP to create a new narrative about the state, which is otherwise known for its progressive values and social advances.
The chances for the BJP to organically grow and win an election in the state are slim in the distant future. True, the BJP is using all tactics to seize power in states these days. Weeks before it came to power in Bihar, one of the most important states in the Cow Belt without even a vote being cast in its favour. In Goa and Manipur, after the February 2017 elections, the BJP managed to form governments despite coming second in terms of the number of seats. In Tamil Nadu, another state where the BJP doesn’t stand a chance to win election, it’s controlling the state government through the different factions of the AIADMK. Opposition politicians are routinely raided by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate. The latest example is the BJP’s efforts to break up the Congress party in Gujarat where crucial Rajya Sabha elections are scheduled to happen.
In Kerala, BJP’s chances are further limited. The largest parties in the state in terms of the number of MLAs are the CPIM, CPI, Congress and the Muslim League. None of these parties will go with the BJP for an alliance. A possibility is to truck with the Kerala Congress factions, but even if that happens, BJP won’t have the majority to rule the state unless it sees a dramatic expansion of its own base, which is unlikely given its performance in the last elections. In 2016, the BJP campaigned hard in Kerala. Both Modi and party chief Amit Shah addressed a number of rallies in the state. The BJP had also reached an alliance with the BDJS, the political party of SNDP, a caste-based organisation of the Ezhavas, who traditionally backed the Left. The BJP had also reached out to the Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha, a Dalit organisation. Still, BJP’s vote share was 15% and it won only one out of the 140 Assembly seats. So the BJP also knows that its electoral chances are slim. Therefore, it’s resorting to other tactics. If this campaign against Kerala and the Left gains momentum, the BJP could even use that to dismiss the state government so that it can control the levers of the power.
Thirdly, the BJP hates Kerala’s freedom and sociopolitical advancements. It is a model state for the rest of the country when it comes to social indicators. For example, Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) under-5 in Kerala is 7, while it’s 43 in Gujarat, the BJP’s model state. Kerala also leads the country in literacy rate, poverty reduction, public healthcare and implementation of welfare measures. It’s also one of the most prosperous and richest states which is free of communal violence, in sharp contrast with the BJP-ruled states in North India where people belonging to minority communities face violence over issues ranging from “love jihad” and beef eating. And the BJP doesn’t have any say in Kerala’s rise. It’s an underdog in the state’s polity till the explosion of the electronic media. So the BJP is jealous and impatient. And it’s dangerous and should set alarm bells ringing for the Left. Given the way the BJP has gone ahead capturing power in other states, it’s unlikely to sit quietly and watch the Communist rule in Kerala.