Thiruvananthapuram: A high-profile trip by a top BJP functionary amid simmering tensions with CPM cadre, masked only by peace overtures initiated by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, would only achieve to raise the tempo in the stand-off between political arch-rivals.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has roped in union finance minister Arun Jaitley for a one-day trip to the state to flag the issue of political violence in a bid to corner the CPM, which has countered the high-profile visit as an attempt to divert attention from the string of graft charges faced by the saffron brigade.
Arun Jaitley, who arrived in the state Sunday, paid a visit to the residence of RSS activist Rajesh, who was murdered at Sreekariyam in the capital on July 29.
The BJP alleges that CPM activists were behind the murder, but the state police and the ruling party have denied any political motive. They cite personal feud as the trigger.
Jaitley will also visit an RSS functionary, Jayapraskash, who is under treatment, following an alleged attack by the CPM cadres eight months ago. He would also take part in meetings of kith and kin of BJP-RSS activists who were allegedly attacked by the CPM.
The arrival of Jaitley, accompanied by a prominent Keralite Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, is a diversionary tactic to shrug off the taint of graft in the state BJP.
The state unit was rocked by graft charges after an internal party probe into the cash-for-medical-affiliation scam.
The internal BJP probe had indicted some BJP office-bearers of accepting a bribe of Rs 5.6 crore, purportedly to 'facilitate' affiliation of the Medical Council of India to a private medical college.
Cash-for-affiliation scam: panel's findings reveal murky deals
This came as a rude jolt to the BJP national leadership, which swung into damage-control mode.
The political murder at this stage gave the saffron party a lease of life and it grabbed that opportunity to nail the CPM, which it sees as a bigger threat to the Hindutva brigade in the country than a weakened Congress.
The CPM is also miffed that Jaitley's high-voltage trip comes even as RSS-BJP leaders are participating in a string of peace meets organized at the behest of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
On Saturday, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan had attended a peace meet in Kannur along with CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. Kannur is the home district of Pinarayi and Kodiyeri.
For the BJP central leadership, Kerala has always been a problem child, where the Sangh Parivar's efforts to get a legislator elected bore fruit only after six decades.
But despite that minor 'electoral success', the BJP is still struggling to get a firm foothold in the state.
Though it has made significant inroads in various pockets, the saffron party is failing to convert it into electoral success.
Moreover, internecine feuds in the BJP is also annoying the central leadership, which has decided to take its own decisions vis-a-vis the state, rather than bank on its local unit.
Amit Shah is a vocal backer of the NDA concept in the state, but the 'accommodation' of many allies including the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena is a heartburn for many within the party.
Shah's line of thinking is that the BJP alone may not be able to reap electoral gains and hence, he wants to stitch a rainbow alliance of anti-CPM forces who are also inimical to a Congress-led front.
This may not have gone down well with a section of the BJP here, but no one in Kerala unit can dare to even articulate a line of thought that is diametrically opposite to the national party boss.
The Sangh Parivar also sees Pinarayi as a stumbling block that is thwarting its ambitions to let the lotus bloom in a red bastion.
Remember, the first instance of political violence occurred at Pinarayi's constituency after the May 2016 assembly polls.
From then on, the saffron brigade had launched an all-out attack against the CM, with insinuations that hold the top executive of the state directly responsible for the political violence.
The Sangh outfits had even called a hartal to thwart Pinarayi's Karavali Souharda Rally in Mangaluru in February. The Madhya Pradesh police had denied permission to Pinarayi to attend a felicitation function on the ruse that the RSS was holding a demonstration.
In March, an RSS leader had offered a Rs 1 crore bounty for beheading the Kerala CM. The RSS sacked him and the BJP distanced itself from the remark, but the intentions were clear.
The BJP has been raking the issue of political murders in Parliament, with the latest tirade coming from its New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, who went to the extend of describing Kerala as “Godforsaken country” an apparent wordplay on the state's tourism department's motto.
The CPM's seething anger also stems from the fact that two constitutional bodies have pulled up the Pinarayi government for a surge in political violence and atrocities against dalits.
For a detailed report, read: Kerala govt in a spot over political violence, atrocities
The Kerala governor's act of summoning the Kerala CM and tweeting that has also irked the ruling dispensation.
The CPM state secretary had cried foul against this citing constitutional impropriety, but the party also recognizes the danger posed by provocative statements which may incite the cadre.
That would prove handy to the RSS-BJP to incite violence and keep the issue on the boil till the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The BJP is keen to make good its losses in northern belt, where it had swept polls in 2014 and hence it can no longer hope to repeat the same numbers, from the southern states, including Kerala.
It would be facing the LS polls in 2019 with graft charges engulfing its own state unit and an incumbent government at the Center.
So the only issue it can rake up in the state with a political terrain inimical to saffron is political violence, but the numbers dished out by rival political outfits do not offer a clear picture.
So Jaitley will bring in the national media attention to the ruling dispensation at the Center. The shrewd, articulate politician is expected to reel out some figures and more than that engineer a high-voltage pitch to the fledgling fortunes of the BJP in the southern state.
How far the BJP succeeds in camouflaging its internal woes via this campaign remains to be seen, but the CPM machinery has already chalked out a counter strategy that would hinge on highlighting the atrocities in the BJP-ruled states. The CPM counter offensive would also dish out statistics.
It also has an not so envious task of reigning in its cadres even in the face of obvious provocation.