Cover Story : Challenging the Status-quo
For a politically vibrant state like Kerala, political mobilisation through various means is not new. The Left Front has mastered that art through cadre based muscle power while the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Congress has been subtly mixing caste and communal colours to further its politics. Both these fronts have been dominating the Kerala politics and ruling the state with alternate mandate. The people of Kerala almost succumb to this forced bipolarity with some compulsions. The resurgence of BJP under the charismatic leadership of Kummanam Rajasekharan seems to be challenging this status-quo in more than one way.
The BJP State President Kummanam Rajasekharan’s Vimo-chana Yatra (Liberation March) has by all means proved the mettle of the party in the state. The popularity and glamour the Yatra got during its traverse from Kasaragod to Thiruvanan-thapuram was several times greater than the political yatras being carried out by State Congress chief VM Sudheeran and CPM supremo Pinarayi Vijayan. While Sudheeran had to address empty chairs in several places, Pinarayi had to content with his party cadres. The stigma of corruption for the Congress and history of arrogance and hooliganism with the Communists, Kummanam is not sparing any of the partners in both the fronts. That is the reason his Yatra was attended by general public on top of the party cadres. The large turnout seen in every reception the Yatra got was the barometer capable of measuring the growing dissatisfaction the Kerala voters do have with the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and opposition CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF). People appeared to be frustrated with the corrupt UDF regime of CM Oommen Chandy and CPM, the vanguard of political violence in the state. Moreover, the ‘talk of the state’ is loud and clear – “Both LDF and UDF are playing a ridiculous blame game; and at the end of the day, they are playing compromise politics. I tolerate your corruption and you tolerate mine!” Kummanam is politely but firmly tapping on that resentment.
He is not limiting his message to attacking the ruling and Opposition fronts but addressing the real self-reliance issues of the coastal state. Even though the Vimochana Yatra was a political campaign, the slogan raised by it could touch the hearts and thoughts of the commoners and laymen. “Annam (food), Mannu (soil), Jalam (water), Thozhil (employment) and Thulyaneethi (justice for all)” are the commodities people have been longing for since the last several decades. When Kerala left the agriculture and the Keralites turned the contenders for white collar jobs, Annam became a ‘matter of import’. Kerala has become a consumer State. Soil also became a scarce concept. Landless and homeless people and poor tillers sans agricultural land are the common scenes in the state. Water also gradually disappears from the state. The unscientific filling of the paddy fields, water bodies and ponds pushed the ground water level further down. The aforementioned atrocities are more than enough to pave the way for the young Kerala’s unemployment. The large scale migration from a State with high potential has been a matter of concern which was hardly addressed in Kerala politics. It was replaced with the communal politics and minoritism of the mainstream political outfits. The Vimochana Yatra has to be viewed from this pragmatic angle.
Meet ‘Comrade’ Siyad
The Yatra touched all the 140 assembly constituencies in the State. In Ernakulam District Kummanam addressed public receptions in 13 assembly segments. When the Yatra covered districts after districts the size of attendance started swelling. Hundreds of political workers left their parties and joined BJP in the presence of the new party president. Some of them had even contested under different political banners in the local self governing bodies election held around the end of 2015. Kummanam’s gestures during his Yatra added more flavour to his already popular image. In Aluva, the leader disembarked from his jeep and visited the dharna pandal of the municipal cleaners even though they belonged to some other political group. Wherever his Yatra went, young bike riders led his motorcade with flying saffron flags. In some places number of bikes crossed 1500 to 2000. Even though the assembly elections are not declared, Yatra, at the end of the day assumed the role of a de facto election campaign of BJP.
Wherever Yatra went, Kummanam made it a point to visit the offices of the community organisations of all communities, irrespective of their conventional political affiliations. It was like a dream come true for the office bearers of those organisations since such love and affection had never been showered on them before. In Muvattupuzha, Kummanam visited Prof Joseph, whose hand was chopped by the Islamic fundamentalists few years before, at his home. Kummanam’s visit to the state office of Kudumbi Seva Sangham (KSS) was one such event. On the morning of February 1, the whole state committee of KSS had got together to greet the BJP leader. State President of the community Bhaskaran submitted a memorandum before the BJP state chief. It was a documented demand to include Kutumbi community in the Scheduled Tribe list. Kummanam, in his speech, assured all possible assistance in this matter. The community had fled Goa, along with Goud Saraswat Brahmins, during Portuguese persecution like forceful conversion and demolition of temples, etc. They fled their homeland for upholding their religion, culture and faith. They are a seven lakh strong community in the state. They still stick on to their Hindu tradition and culture.
‘We aim at a self-reliant Kerala’
Ahead of the Assembly Polls, the Vimochana Yatra (Liberation March) by the BJP Kerala State President Shri Kummanam Rajasekharan has received a rousing reception across the state. Organiser correspondent T Satisan spoke to him during the Yatra to know his vision for Kerala. Excerpts :
It is a tremendous success. Thousands of people throng the public meetings. They come cutting across party or religious lines. Lot of CPM and Congress workers are joining BJP during the public receptions. Large crowds await for a glance of the Yatra. The warm response from the minority communities is an eye opener to those who blame BJP as communal and anti-minority party.
Regarding priorities, the first one is the very slogan of the Kerala Vimochana Yatra, that is, “Annam (food), Mannu (soil), Jalam (water), Thozhil (employment) and Thulyaneethi (justice for all). A Developed State is the aim. Secondly, there will be impartial enquiry into the mismanagement of the funds allotted for social welfare. Those who are the culprits will be brought before the law. The third one is to bring back agriculture to the centre stage. Kerala was an agro-oriented state. We have to revive it. Then we have to get rid of the depression in the fields of industry, commerce and business in general. We aim at a self reliant Kerala. We have to promote Research and Development for the sake of upgrading overall efficiency.
Now, we have reorganised the party structures at state and district levels. Obviously the next change will be at booth/panchayat/mandal levels. The idea is to boost efficiency of the organisational structure for facing the assembly elections.
We are getting in constant touch with the downtrodden and backward classes. They have been remaining sidelined since long. I am visiting the offices of different community organisations during the Yatra. I am listening to the problems and grievances they raise. I wish to complete that mission in a week. Once the Yatra is over I can give much more attention to it. It will follow the preparation of a Vision Paper. Then there will of course be an Action Plan.
Our discussions and interactions are still in the process.
In Kerala, police is quite often influenced by one Front or the other. Now, the Congress is misusing the police force. But, the opposition LDF led by CPM sits quiet. What we come across is nothing but compromise politics. That is what we read in the High Court order in connection with the Shukoor murder case. Court has expressed its strong dissatisfaction in governments’ confession that police is unable to discharge its duty impartially. Police agrees that five men sat together to plot a murder.
Of course, we will restructure the educational policy. Modi Government shows guidelines and ideas in this regard. Educational reforms are very significant with respect to a country’s development, prosperity and the citizens’ caliber and character.
At first glance, it is an area political parties should keep aloof. In general, RSS and VHP support the temple entry of all believers. Temples under VHP management are permitting all believers to enter the temples. But, every temple has got its own social background. For example, the temples in Malabar region have got their own backgrounds, especially due to the historical past of the Malabar riots. The matter shall be discussed by the believers and authorities.
I am not aware of the context of the ministers’ statements. Gender equality should be applicable for not only temples but also mosques and churches. But, every temple has got its own rituals and systems based on the temple’s Tantra Vidya. Tantri mukhyas, believers and the Devaswom authorities should hold detailed deliberations and reach a conclusion.
The Vimochana Yatra was an ample opportunity for lakhs of people to experience the humble character of Kummanam Rajasekharan; who can lead them and still be one among them. They have heard about him a lot. They know the agitations he had led and won. They know that he was the young lieutenant of legendary and veteran Sangh pracharak late P Madhavji during the Nilakkal agitation against the grabbing of Sabarimala land by the mighty Church in 1983. It was the first Waterloo the Church had to suffer in Kerala. Again he was with P Madhavji and late Retd. District Judge AR Sreenivan in organising the historic Paliyam Vilambaram which proclaimed that Brahamania can be attained not due to birth but due to karma. In 1987 he contested to Kerala Assembly from the capital city of Thiruvanathapuram as a Hindu Munnani candidate supported by BJP and he came second, the first ever incident in the history of Kerala politics! His commitment to ideology of Hindutva did not keep him away from the Muslim and Christian communities of the State. Before and during the Yatra, he not only visited many prominent people from these communities but common people including Muslim women welcomed his yatra at various places.
Meeting the Envoy of Compassion
When a population of 125 crore people enjoy a feeling of security under the administration of Narendra Modi, ISIS and al-Qaeda can never conquer the Muslims of Bharat—a Facebook post echoing these sentiments, highlighting Modi’s exemplary governance has earned some of the most horrendous experiences for a Muslim lady named Athica. However the brave lady chose to give the most befitting rejoinder by enrolling herself as member of the BJP. And when Kummanam Rajashekharan’s Vimochana Yatra reached Malappuram, Athica was in the forefront to welcome him.
Kummanam has served as the state organising secretary of VHP and general secretary of Hindu Aikya Vedi, an umbrella organisation of different Hindu organisations. His timely intervention has contributed a lot to make sure that communal passions did not flare up when eight Sangh workers were brutally butchered by Muslim fundamentalists in Maradu Beach, Kozhikode. Even though Kummanam is assuming the responsibility of a political party for the first time, the people connect with him as a selfless social worker. They saw him as their own representative to fight against the infamous Aranmula Airport project; the project had the blessings of powerful land and construction mafia with the blessings of the Oommen Chandy regime. There people saw him as a spotless environmentalist who fought against an unscientific airport which was causing large scale environmental impacts in the state. Famous environmentalist and poet Prof Sugathakumari joined hands with him and the rest is the history of victory.
For your Ears only
With her dazzling voice, Rukhia, 63 year old singer, has been creating wave in the elections rallies of the Congress and Communist Parties for the last thirty years. When the Yatra reached Cheruthurthi in Thrissur District, Rukhia was there to welcome Rajettan with a political jingle on her lips. And she declared, “From now onwards, I will sing only for Rajettan”. What prompted her to embark on such a decision was her yesterdays’ bitter experience. “I have been singing for both CPM and Congress for many years. Whenever they have come to power, they forgot me. They have no money to help me; but they have money to give Saritha. For common people like me, BJP is the only ray of hope,” she said. Rukhia has lost her husband eight years ago. Leading a lonely life as she is issueless, she is now supported by a group of BJP workers. While Rukhia asserts, she no longer believes in them, she becomes vociferous when talk about Kummanam Rajasekharan—“A saint-like figure! A sterile character! He is the only leader who can get things done for people,” she sheard her feelings.
One could feel the warmth of love and respects ordinary people were showering on him during his Vimochana Yatra. Several people told this weekly that this is the man they were looking for. It was the man they were travelling with in third class train compartments and state transport buses and overloaded private buses in the cities of Kerala. Here is the man they saw sleeping on the spread newspapers in the railway platforms. This is the man they saw writing or sleeping in the dark, cave-like room of the old VHP state office in Kochi. These qualities attracted men and of course women in large numbers to hear him and have a look of him. His ability to connect with youth and elderly, men and women, rural and urban folks and with all caste and communities is making the difference that has created possibility of transforming Kerala.
T Satisan from Kochi