With the Lok Sabha elections around the corner, the CPI (M) led Left government in Kerala seems to making moves to garner the backing of community organisations.
None other than the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan visited the General Secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), Vellappally Natesan, at his home at Kanichukulangara in Alappuzha on Monday. It is rare for Chief Ministers of any Left government to visit leaders of community organisations at their residence.
The visit was officially in connection with the inauguration of the Pilgrim Facilitation Centre at the Kanichukulangara temple. Ministers P Thilothaman, Thomas Isaac, G Sudhakaran and Kadakampally Surendran accompanied the Chief Minister. The governmentâ€™s decision to construct the facilitation centre reportedly came after it was excluded from the Centreâ€™s Swadeshi Darshan scheme.
The move was apparently to show that the government is not against devotees, in the backdrop of the wrath it attracted from religious groups for implementing the Supreme Court order of allowing women of menstruating ages to pray at the Sabarimala temple.
However, political observers believe the visit has larger political aims with an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
According to J Prabhash, a political analyst, the visit has three purposes. â€śFirst to create confusion in the NDA since BDJS is part of it. Second is to ensure that the SNDP, which has been supporting the government in Renaissance related moves like Sabarimala women entry, would continue to back the government. Third is as a counter for the NSS.â€ť
The government has not softened its stand on the Nair Service Society (NSS), a community organisation of Nairs. The rift has widened ever since the SC verdict on Sabarimala was implemented with the NSS declaring an open war against the government.
â€śThough the leaders of the Congress and its allies in the UDF used to visit community leaders like this, in my memory this should be the first time a CM belonging to the CPI (M) has done this,â€ť Prabhash added.
SNDP is the largest organisation representing the Ezhava community in the state, as the NSS is for Nairs.
Vellappally has been reigning SNDP as its unchallenged supremo for decades. In December 2015, the SNDP floated the political outfit Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) with a number of Hindu organisations, from Yogakshema Sabha representing Brahmins and Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha representing the Dalit community, as stakeholders. BDJS is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Front in the state and Vellappallyâ€™s son Thushar Vellappally is the convener of the alliance.
While Thushar is the president of BDJS, he is also Assistant Secretary of SNDP.
But recently Vellappally has been publicly presenting himself as being detached from BDJS. He has been backing the CPI (M) led LDF government in the Sabarimala issue, while Thushar had declared staunch loyalty to the BJP in opposing the governmentâ€™s stand.
Vellappally was the chairman of the general council that formed for the Womenâ€™s Wall â€“ a human chain formed from the north to the south of the state on January 1 to garner support for the governmentâ€™s stand. The Womenâ€™s Wall, which had the backing of most community organisations in the state, was also a step towards approving caste politics. The CMâ€™s visit to Vellappallyâ€™s home is a continuation of that.
The government, on the other hand, is in constant conflict with the NSS. This has led to a series of verbal fights between NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair, first with Pinarayi Vijayan, and recently with the CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.