The euphoric victory celebration of BJP in Palakkad Municipal Corporation after they managed to romp it home for the second consecutive term has sparked a fresh controversy. On Wednesday evening, a few workers were seen in a purported video unfurling a giant banner with ‘Jai Shree Ram’ written in Malayalam from the top of the building. The Congress and the Left have criticised it as an orchestrated attempt to communalise an election result.
Palakkad town police have registered a First Information Report (FIR) based on the complaint of the Municipality Secretary under section 153 IPC (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot). Interestingly, BJP district president, E Krishnadas stated that the party leadership was unaware of the incident. In a dramatic turnaround of events, DYFI workers have unfurled the tricolour flag in the same manner.
Few questions are to be asked in this entire fiasco. Primarily, is this entire episode all about putting up a religious symbol over a secular space or do we need to focus more on the way through which the Sangh Parivar is creeping into the political landscape of Kerala? Secondly, if the left has helped to win BJP in Palakkad, at least statistically, what moral ground do they hold to question their politics other than reveal it on the poll?
BJP supporters who defend the unfurling of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ banner opined that the act was in good faith. They substantiate their stand by pointing the picture of Lord Ram depicted in the cover page of part 4 of the Constitution where Fundamental Rights are mentioned. Some even went on to the extent of quoting the slogan of Rajputana rifle, one of the earliest rifle regiments of Indian Army, “Raja Ramachandra ki Jai”
However, the left political ecosystem of the state can hardly digest the Hindutva symbolism BJP tried to expand through its electoral victories in their pockets. Since time immemorial, Kerala’s political conscience has developed a natural defence mechanism against Hindutva politics. Whether it’s the Babri masjid demolition or the riots in Gujarat, Kerala’s collective memory of Hindutva is intact. BJP has triggered it by calling Palakkad as BJP’s Gujarat.
Apart from making a political statement by unfurling the national flag, the left is trying to reclaim the leadership of the anti-BJP front from Congress. This move is of particular importance especially when the presence of Rahul Gandhi led to a landslide victory of Congress in the 2019 Loksabha election. The minority voters came out to vote in large numbers for the Congress. The left was the political victim of the move. Therefore, the Palakkad ‘Jai Shree Ram’ row is a tussle between the left and the Congress to woo the anti-Hindutva votes of Kerala.
This is also a desperate attempt by BJP to project itself as a competing opposition after its dismal performance in the local body election. At a time when the leadership of BJP are divided into various groups, the current state president K Surendran needed an image to portray to the world about what they have done. This desperation pushed BJP to its core Hindutva plans.
Therefore, if the Palakkad incident is beyond symbolism, BJP needs to bring in a compatible agenda to win elections rather than resorting to reveal their real essence.