Kerala: CPI(M) under pressure as senior leader meets BJP’s Prakash Javadekar

Political turmoil in Kerala due to allegations that senior Left leaders were approached by the BJP, sparking internal conflicts within the party

CPI(M) leader E.P. Jayarajan (speaker here) faces scrutiny over alleged discussions with BJP leaders (photo: @EP_Jayarajan/X)
CPI(M) leader E.P. Jayarajan (speaker here) faces scrutiny over alleged discussions with BJP leaders (photo: @EP_Jayarajan/X)

Ashlin Mathew

In Kerala, there’s a war of words playing out between the CPI(M) and the BJP—and also within the CPI(M).

Allegedly, it all started with certain senior Communist leaders being approached by the BJP.

First, there was a war of words between the Congress and the CPI(M) before polling in Kerala on 26 April in the second phase. Now, the allegations and counter-allegations are flying between the CPI(M) and the BJP.

During campaigning, the CPI(M) hinted at the possibility of KPCC president K. Sudhakaran—who is also the UDF candidate for Kannur constituency—joining the BJP. Sudhakaran lashed out, saying that even his dog would not join the BJP and that "the person Shobha Surendran of the BJP had alluded to was E.P. Jayarajan [Left Democratic Front (LDF) convenor]”.

The CPI(M) state secretariat is scheduled to convene on Monday, 29 April to discuss the issue and there is all likelihood of Jayarajan being stripped of his post as convenor, as a result.

BJP’s Alappuzha Lok Sabha candidate Shobha Surendran first alluded to a senior CPI(M) leader wanting to join the BJP on 23 April, Tuesday last.

Later, it was revealed that Jayarajan had held discussions with former union minister and BJP leader Prakash Javadekar regarding joining the saffron party. She claimed that Jayarajan was ready to join the BJP and only backtracked fearing retaliation from CPI(M) party workers.

Surendran said, “Jayarajan had contacted me through the mobile number of his son. His son had messaged me 'note my number'."

She claimed she hadn’t revealed the leader's name until now because she did not want to see him dead.

She added that the discussions were held in Delhi and that political middleman T.G. Nandakumar (who has also accused BJP leader Anil K. Antony of corruption) was involved.

Initially, Jayarajan told the media in Kannur on 25 April, Thursday, that “everything is an utter lie. No such incident had happened”.

But, later he conceded that Nandakumar and Javadekar had paid an unplanned visit to his son’s house in Thiruvananthapuram on 5 March 2023. He insisted that the meeting was short and that he was quite surprised by the visit. He claimed that no political discussions were held. “How can I ask a former union minister to leave when they visit my home?” asked Jayarajan.

He added that the controversy was sparked by the UDF ahead of elections to sabotage the edge that the LDF had in the general elections in the state.

Also playing the incident down, Javedekar said on 27 April that he met political leaders across the spectrum and wanted to know if it was a crime to have visited Jayarajan. “I meet a lot of people. Is it a crime? What’s wrong with it?,” asked Javedkar, who was the BJP’s Kerala in-charge for the general elections. (He had, however, just five days ago, 22 April, denied meeting Jayarajan.)

Unusually for the Left, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan publicly censured Jayarajan once details of the meeting emerged: “Jayarajan should have been more cautious,” said Vijayan on Friday, 26 April.

However, he too seemed to want to play down the possibility of a defection. Vijayan claimed that Jayarajan maintains good relationships with most people and he isn’t particularly vigilant about whom he meets.

Political analysts have stated, however, that this public reprimand indicated tensions within the party leadership.

Supporting the LDF convener, on the other hand, CPI(M) leader M.V. Jayarajan on Saturday, 27 April, said the controversy was created by the Congress party to hide the fact that it was their leaders who were joining the BJP.

There has been tension brewing between the Kerala chief minister and E.P. Jayarajan, though, ever since MLA M.V. Govindan was selected as the party’s new state secretary in 2022. Jayarajan was overlooked for leadership of Kerala although Govindan is junior to him. However, Govindan went on to succeed former state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.

After Govindan was appointed, Jayarajan took leave after Balakrishnan’s demise, citing health issues. He no longer participated in the meetings of the CPI(M) and the LDF.

There were also allegations that E.P. Jayarajan had accumulated wealth illegally, through investment in a private Ayurvedic resort in Kannur. This was alleged by state committee member P. Jayarajan in a committee meeting in December 2022.

The state secretariat heard out E.P. Jayarajan explanation—he said he had no investment in the resort and that none of the investments made by his wife or son were illegal. The party decided to not probe further.

This newest controversy around E.P. Jayarajan now leaves the CPI(M) red-faced, as the party has repeatedly attacked the Congress throughout its campaign, accusing the Congress of “soft Hindutva” and saying that Congress leaders readily switch over to the BJP.

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