The Communist Party of India (Marxist) cadre should not remain “mere spectators” to attacks by political rivals, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the state secretary of the party, is reported to have said, putting his party-led two-month-old Left Democratic Front government in Kerala in a fresh round of controversy.

The Congress and the BJP have demanded that a case be registered against Balakrishnan for “exhorting violence”.

“Those who dare to attack us should not be spared,” Balakrishnan is supposed to have said during his address at a people’s convention called by the CPI(M) Kannur unit on Sunday to protest the murder of party worker CV Dhanraj, allegedly by the Bharatiya Janata Party workers at Payyannur on July 11.

“You should ensure that those who come to attack a CPI(M) worker don’t go back in the same condition. But you should not attack houses and shops,” he is supposed to have added, while asking the party’s local units to impart physical training to the party workers, while asking them to get ready to physically confront their rivals.

But the CPI(M) workers had already “avenged the murder” of 34-year-old Dhanraj, by allegedly killing CK Ramachandran, a local leader of the BJP’s trade union wing, before the party secretary’s advice. The 54-year-old Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh leader was stabbed to death at his house two hours later on the same day that Dhanraj was killed.

The houses of two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers also came under attack subsequently. The police had arrested four CPI(M) workers and two BJP men in connection with the two murders.

Police in the northern district was siding with the assailants, Balakrishnan alleged, while pointing out that there had been earlier attempts on the life of Dhanraj, and that police had teamed up with the BJP to protect the murderers.

‘Revenge killing’

The senior CPI(M) leader’s advice to the party workers came 12 days after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought to justify the killing of Ramachandran in the state Assembly, saying that it was a “revenge killing”. He had no words about ending the spate of this cycle of violence that has claimed 200 lives in the district in the last two decades, in his reply to an opposition notice for an adjournment motion.

Pinarayi had put the onus of ending the spate of political violence on the BJP when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged him to take steps to bring peace to the district during his first meeting with him after assuming power in the state.

Balakrishnan’s statement did not surprise political observers, as he is not known for balance in his speech. The CPI(M) would even make bombs at police stations, he had said when serving as Minister for Home in the VS Achuthanandan government between 2006 and 2011.

“This is how politics works in Kannur, the cradle of Communist movement in the state,” said Jacob George, a political analyst. “The CPI(M) workers picked up arms after RSS and the BJP tried to challenge its stranglehold on the district in the 70s. It’s a battle for survival by the two,” he said.

George said he does not see an immediate end to the political violence as both the BJP and the CPI(M) workers expect the support of their respective governments at the Centre and in the state. That the spate of political violence has been continuing since the counting of votes of the Assembly election on May19, he said, was an indication of this.

More than 60% of 1,253 poll-related violent incidents reported across the state were from the northern districts of Kannur, Kasargod, Kozhikode and Malappuram, as per figures available with the Home Department, The violence claimed four lives in Kannur district.

'Inciting violence'

Balakrishnan’s statement was intended to keep up the morale of the cadres, George said. However, the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front and the BJP are not prepared to let him off the hook. Both the parties have accused him of inciting violence and asked the government to register a case against him.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president VM Sudheeran has written a letter to the Chief Minister asking him to take legal action against his party secretary. The state BJP president Kummanam Rajashekharan has moved the Director General of Police Loknath Behra.

Balakrishnan’s allegation against police was a threat to toe the party line, Rajashekharan said.”If he has any complaint against the police, he should have brought it to the notice of the chief minister, who is holding the home portfolio. By publicly blaming them openly, he is threatening the police,” he added.

Leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala said Balakrishnan’s remarks were an indication of the rising feud in the CPI(M). He termed it as an indirect indictment of the chief minister. The LDF government had swallowed the promises it made to the people during election regarding security, Ramesh alleged.

CPI leader and Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar said that violence was no the policy of the government. The government will never encourage violence, he said when asked to respond to Balakrishnan’s statement.