CK Janu, Keralaâ€™s foremost tribal leader, took everyone by surprise when she announced her decision to ally with the NDA in the upcoming Kerala Assembly elections. Janu is fighting the elections from the Sultan Bathery constituency in Wayanad.
Having carried out some of the strongest protests Kerala has ever witnessed over tribal issues, CK Janu has become the face of the Adivasi struggle in Kerala.
Her decision of floating the Janathipathya Rashtriya Sabha (JRS) and allying with the BJP-led NDA, has confounded friends and foes alike. She even received a death threat delivered to her door-step, demanding that she withdraw her decision.
Janu, however, seems utterly unconcerned by the uproar.
â€śNone of it bothers me. My only driving force is the hellish living condition of the tribals in Kerala. Once I visited a family who were mourning the death of one of their family members. They were crying their hearts out. More than the loss, they were crying over the fact that they did not have any space to cremate that personâ€™s body. Imagine their plight!â€ť she says.
â€śAnd this is not just the case of Adivasis. Even common people are suffering. In front of all of this, the death threat and the stiff opposition that I get from certain people is nothing,â€ť she adds.
Janu has tried her luck at the polls twice before, but failed to impress the electorate both times.
However, she says that she is â€ś101% confidentâ€ť about her win in the coming election. â€śI have been seeing the change in people. The voters are responding positively and I have never seen such a reaction among people. Many womenâ€™s groups and youngsters have been campaigning for me without my knowledge. They call and tell me about it after they carry out such campaigns. This change will definitely benefit us,â€ť she says.
Asked for an explanation for the change, she says in a tone brimming with confidence and passion, â€śThey trust me completely. A lot of people have been telling me that only I understand their problems and needs. Both LDF and UDF have neglected these people for years. So they feel only I can help them now. Hence, the positive response.â€ť
Januâ€™s decision of fighting the elections with the help of BJP did not go down well with her former colleague, M Geethanandan, who is the co-ordinator of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha (AGMS) and Secretary of Janathipathya Ooru Vikasana Munnani, both organisations in which Janu played a pivotal role. He openly accused Janu of ditching the Adivasis and said that the â€śenlightened Adivasis, Dalits, marginalized people and those believing in secularism and democracy will not support C K Janu.â€ť
When asked if the stiff opposition from AGMS and Munnani has proved to be a setback, she laughs, â€śAll this is not even relevant for my people. CK Janu as a person has no relevance. Lives of people have relevance. All they want is an improved standard of living. It does not matter to them whether I am in this particular party or another. As a matter of fact, different sections of people across Kerala have been helping me with my campaign. A lot of people told me that I should have taken this decision long back.â€ť
Justifying her reasons for joining hands with NDA, she further says, â€śOpportunities come randomly. We have to be decisive. If the decision helps our priorities, then why should one think so much?â€ť
In choosing her alliance partners, she says, it is only the empowerment of her constituents that is the deciding point. â€śPersonally, I am not getting any benefits by taking this decision. If I can uplift my people, I will do anything. I have to keep in mind the priorities of my people. I cannot just abandon them. That is why I decided to join NDA as an independent ally.â€ť
She adds, â€śAlso, NDA recognizes Adivasis as a relevant part of the society. UDF and LDF should also have done that. Unfortunately, they did not. To sum it up, I have taken this stand only for the cause of Adivasis. After kudilketti samara (hut built agitation), Muthanga and Nilpu samara (standing agitation), contesting elections under the banner of NDA is my new way of protesting.â€ť
As for her top priorities for Bathery, she says, â€śI cannot number the things I want to do for Bathery. There are a lot of things to be done. In fact, I feel that 5 years will not be enough to finish all these works. Both the LDF and the UDF have not done anything for my people. There are a lot of sectors that need attention, especially agriculture.â€ť
And, she adds, these problems and priorities are applicable to the whole of Wayanad as well. â€śI am aiming at bringing inclusive development for all sections of society and I want to, at the least, bring them a step ahead from where they are now.â€ť