Though Janu’s party – Janadhipathya Rashtriya Party – quit the BJP in 2018, she disappointed her supporters by allying with the BJP for the 2021 Assembly polls after she was allegedly offered money.

Kerala tribal leader and activist CK Janu
news Politics Friday, June 11, 2021 - 19:12

The trajectory that Kerala tribal leader CK Janu’s political career has taken has apparently come as a disappointment to her followers. Recently she was accused of receiving a bribe from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to join hands with the saffron party for the recently held Assembly polls. Janu, who led the historic Muthanga movement demanding land back for the Adivasis in 2003, chose to enter electoral politics when the two leading political fronts in the state – the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) – failed to pay attention to issues relating to tribals. Contesting as the NDA candidate from Sulthan Bathery, Janu lost by a huge margin.

But setbacks in electoral politics is natural for grassroots level mass leaders right from Medha Patkar to Janu, points out poet and activist Civic Chandran. The dynamics of electoral politics are entirely different, he says. CR Neelakandan, another activist, also points out that mainstream politics in Kerala is polarised. It is a fiefdom of the LDF and the UDF.

Civic Chandran notes that Dalit-Ambedkarite politics, in its growth, has risen beyond Janu. “Janu is self-made and whether she wins an election or not is inconsequential. Mainstream politics will always try to tarnish the image of leaders who represent Dalit politics, say, for instance, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and BSP supremo Mayawati,” he says.

Neelakandan recalls that a section of Janu’s well-wishers, including him, wanted her to contest as a UDF candidate in the 2011 Assembly polls. But she didn’t have confidence at the time and hesitated. With Janu unwilling, the UDF fielded PK Jayalakshmi, who won and went on to become a minister. If Janu had joined the Congress at the time her political career would have been different, Neelakandan contends.

“In 2014 when Sarah Joseph, I and others joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Janu was still hesitant to commit herself to electoral politics,” Neelakandan recollects. However, the political adventure of the likes of Neelakandan and Sarah Joseph turned out to be bitter and they quit the AAP without much delay.

Neelakandan says that Janu would have taken the political plunge to take forward her cause and not because she identifies herself with the ideology of the BJP.

Recently, Janadhipathya Rashtriya Party (JRP) state treasurer Praseetha Azhikode alleged that Janu received Rs 10 lakh from BJP state president K Surendran to return to the NDA fold for the 2021 Assembly polls. JRP was formed by Janu.

Days before she announced her party’s tie-up with the BJP for the Assembly polls, Janu had almost indicated that she was quitting politics because the pandemic had left her in penury.

In a telephonic conversation, Janu told this reporter that she realised that despite her 35 years of activism, nobody was around to help her when she was in a financial or emotional crisis.

“I pondered what have I gained from all these 35 years of activism?” she said, adding that from now on she had decided to spend more time for herself and her eight-year-old daughter who is studying in Class 3.

Janu said that she had recently learnt to drive. “I’m happy to work as a taxi driver for subsistence. I have only pride in working as a driver, to stand on my own two feet without being a burden to anyone,” Janu added.

Janu also said that she is occupied with giving the finishing touches to her autobiography Adimasanthathigaludae Adayala Pathagal (loose translation: The Imprints of the Path Taken by Slave Children).

Launched in 2016, JRP contested the Assembly polls in alliance with the BJP-led NDA, despite opposition from many in the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha. Janu contested and lost in that election. Janu, who belongs to the Adiya tribe, reportedly one of the most downtrodden indigenous communities in the state, was with the CPI(M) when she began her career in political activism.

She quit the BJP in 2018 but disappointed her supporters by allying with the BJP again this year after she was allegedly offered money. The JRP has announced Janu’s suspension from the party for six months for her alleged deals with the BJP during the Assembly polls.

Janu has meanwhile denied the charges against her and announced that she would take legal action against her adversaries.

Gladwin Emmanuel is a freelance journalist based in Kerala.

Views expressed are the author's own.

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