news analysis

In Kerala, RSS leader's call for chief minister's head leaves a dent in saffron outfit's credibility

Two statements have eroded the saffron outfit's claim that the CPI(M) is responsible for fomenting trouble across the southern state.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s reputation in Kerala has taken a dent after a leader of the hardline Hindutva organisation put a Rs 1 crore bounty on the head of the chief minister of the southern state.

Though the RSS promptly sacked Kundan Chandrawat, a Sah Prachar Pramuk (joint publicity chief) from Madhya Pradesh after his threats to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a public meeting in Ujjain on Wednesday, the damage had been done.

Chandrawat’s statement came on the back on a confession by the Bharatiya Janata Party Kerala general secretary, K Surendran, that his organisation had also played a role in the decades-long series of political killings that have dogged the state. The RSS has been attempting to claim that Vijayan’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) has primarily been responsible for the violence. But Surendran put paid to that impression.

“We had committed murders and retaliated for the death of each BJP worker,” he said at a meeting in Mangalore on February 25.

Ironically, these statements have boosted the popularity of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and united anti-Sangh Parivar political parties to demand action against the RSS leader.

In the process, the CPI (M) was able to garner the support of its staunch critic and leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala. “It is the same set of people who rejoiced when Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead,” the Congress leader said. “The RSS leader who made the speech should be arrested immediately.”

Police complaint

Though Surendran’s speech did not receive much attention in the national media, it created a flutter in Kerala. Chief Minister Vijayan announced that the government would take the provocative speech seriously.

CPI(M) legislator M Swaraj made a complaint to the police, asking them to investigate the deaths of 30 activists of the Left-leaning Student Federation of India and Democratic Youth Federation of India who have been killed over the past five years. “The police should probe BJP’s involvement in the murders in the wake of Surendran’s confession,” he said.

RSS received another slap on its wrist last Sunday when Vijayan defied threats to attend public functions in Mangaluru in Karnataka, considered to be a saffron stronghold.

RSS and other Hindutva outfits had announced that they would not allow Vijayan to set foot in the coastal city, in a protest against attacks against Sangh Parivar activists in Kannur. But with the support of Congress government in Karnataka, Vijayan completed his engagements without any problem.

At a public rally in the city attended by more than 10,000 people, he challenged the RSS to show what they could do to him. “I know RSS and its devious methods very well,” he said. “I have been defying your threats since I entered student politics. You can ask your elders in RSS to know more about me. You couldn’t touch me at that time. What are you going to do now?”

Looking at the numbers

Political observers say that the long cycle of violence in Kannur district, which is the chief minister’s home turf, isn’t just the fault of the Left.

Of the seven political workers who have been killed in Kannur district after Left Democratic Front government came to power in May, three were CPI (M) members and four belonged to Sangh Parivar.

Said T Sasidharan, the author of Radical Politics in Kannur, a book about the violence in the district, “Both the cadre parties play crucial roles in the violence and they are two sides of the same coin.”

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