Political killings loom over volatile Malabar as key campaign issue

Political killings loom as key campaign issue over volatile Malabar
The spotlight was back on political violence after the murder of two Youth Congress workers at Periya in Kasaragod.
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Kozhikode: Political violence is once again looming as a vital poll issue in the state.

The spotlight was back on political violence after the murder of two Youth Congress workers at Periya in Kasaragod on February 17.

The Congress has alleged that a local CPM leader and his aides were the conspirators.

The Crime Branch stated in the High Court (HC) that the ruling party had no role in the murder.

Local issues were the trigger for the murder, it submitted in the HC.

The families of the youngsters – Sharathlal and Kripesh - as well as the Congress have demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The Congress roped in even party president Rahul Gandhi, who is also the Congress candidate in Wayanad constituency, to visit the families of the victims.

Political killings loom as key campaign issue over volatile Malabar
Rahul Gandhi with Kripesh's father in Periya

That has pitchforked political violence as a key poll issue not only in Kasaragod, but the entire Malabar region.

This will have a resonance in CPM strongholds of Kannur and Vadakara, where party strongman P Jayarajan is engaged in a high-profile poll battle against K Muraleedharan.

Rajmohan Unnithan of the Congress is contesting from Kasaragod and the UDF is trying extract maximum political mileage from the fall out of the Periya twin murder.

Political killings loom as key campaign issue over volatile Malabar
Rajmohan Unnithan of the Congress is contesting from Kasaragod and the UDF is trying extract maximum political mileage from the fall out of the Periya twin murder.

The UDF is attempting to keep alive the issue in the campaign and the CPM is reiterating its stance that the party had no role in the murders.

The accused was expelled from the party as soon as he was arrested.

The LDF's Kasaragod candidate Satheesh Chandran, who is popular in the constituency, is confident that such false charges won't affect the party's prospects.

The families of the slain youngsters charge that the CPM's is using its organisational might to tarnish their sons by casting aspersions on them in a bid to minimise the political fallout.

“They have already killed my son once, now they are killing his character too. Not even a single party member from the CPM expressed regret over the killings. Instead they are visiting every household to tell families that both of them were criminals and they deserved to be 'finished' soon. This is more painful,” says Kripesh's father Krishnan.

Kasaragod, unlike neighbouring district of Kannur, does not have a history of political bloodshed.

In Periya too, such serious clashes were rare. Police say that while political killings are common in Kannur, in Kasaragod communal flare-ups were more common.

In Kannur, this time, the UDF had already started campaigns with the 'martyrs', especially Muslim youth, killed by CPM cadres, even before the Periya twin murders.

A wide campaign highlighting the menace of political killings was already planned by the UDF in connection with the first death anniversary of SP Shuhaib, the Youth Congress leader who was hacked to death allegedly by CPM workers on February 12, 2018.

Political killings loom as key campaign issue over volatile Malabar
SP Shuhaib and Shukoor

The CBI charge-sheet against CPM's former Kannur district secretary and Vadakara LDF candidate P Jayarajan in the the murder of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) activist Abdul Shukoor is also a political tool for the UDF camp.

Shuhaib's murder almost resulted in the resurrection of Congress leader and UDF Kannur candidate K Sudhakaran.

After Shuhaib's death, Sudhakaran had stirred up political passions with a vehemence hitherto not associated with the Congress.

He went on a hunger strike seeking impartial probe in the murder. The series of protests that he led in the district has given him a much-needed traction in the polls.

He takes on CPM's sitting MP P K Sreemathi. This time he aims to avenge his loss in Kannur LS poll in 2014.

Sudhakaran had won from Kannur in 2009, beating CPI(M)'s KK Ragesh by a margin of 43,151 votes. However, in 2014, Sudhakaran lost to CPM's P K Sreemathy by a thin margin of 6,566 votes.

In the Assembly elections that followed, Sudhakaran lost again, conceding the Uduma seat to CPI(M)'s K Kunhiraman by a margin of 3,832 votes.

By making the political killings as a campaign tool, Sudhakaran seems to infused fresh vigour into his campaign.

In Sudhakaran, the youngsters in the party see a leader who can stand up to the might of CPM in Kannur.

He is also seen as someone behind whom the youth can rally.

In Vadakara also, the candidature of Jayarajan is collectively being used by the opponents, especially the Revolutionary Marxist Party of India (RMPI) and Congress to make political killings as a poll issue.

The RMPI, in an expected move, offered support to the UDF to ensure the defeat of its rival.

Political killings
TP Chandrasekharan and KK Rema

The RMPI had charged that Jayarajan was among the key conspirators behind the brutal murder of TP Chandrasekharan.

Chandrasekharan's widow KK Rema did not contest and the party offered support to the UDF this time.

RMPI claims to have a sway on nearly 25,000 votes in Vadakara constituency.

So, political killings as a campaign tool will loom over Kannur, Kasaragod and Vadakara constituencies – regardless of the outcome – as voters exercise their franchise on April 23,

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