BJP chief Amit Shah skipped the party march through Pinarayi, the home town of CPM leader and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, on Thursday. After flagging off the Janraksha march from Payyannur in Kannur on Tuesday, Shah had returned to the national capital. He was expected to be back in Kannur for the second leg of the march, which was to pass through Vijayan’s village, a CPM stronghold. However, he did not return.
Local party leaders had a tough time explaining why Shah cancelled his programme. State BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan, who is leading the yatra, said Shah had to stay back in the national capital for some unavoidable engagements.
On Tuesday, Shah had walked 9 km from Payyannur to Pilathara and addressed a public rally. On Wednesday, he was expected to attend programmes in Mangaluru, which, too, were cancelled. He is expected to be present when the Janraksha yatra concludes in Thiruvananthapuram on October 17.
Shah’s non-appearance in Kerala triggered a fresh war of words between the BJP and CPM. CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan claimed that poor response to the Janraksha yatra had forced Shah to curtail his programme in Kannur district.
“He has gone back disappointed. Kerala BJP leaders might have told him that his march would evoke a tremendous response. But he got the correct feedback, he may have decided not to continue,” CPM leader P Jayarajan told The Indian Express. Pinarayi to BJP: You have not understood Kerala, we are ready for any challenge
Numerous posters and hoardings slamming the BJP and RSS were pasted along the route of the march in Mamparam and Pinarayi town. Shops in Pinarayi were closed on Thursday. BJP leaders alleged that the ruling party had forced shops to close, but the CPM denied it.
Deshabhimani, the CPM’s Malayalam mouthpiece, on Thursday carried stories of atrocities against Dalits, rapes and protests by farmers in BJP-ruled states and raised the question: “Is this BJP’s Janraksha?”
The Janraksha yatra is the first major programme the BJP has planned strategically and started with much fanfare in Kerala. Chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, Union ministers and senior party leaders are expected to join the march that will cover 11 of the 14 districts in the state.
The yatra, with the theme ‘All Have To Live: Against Jihadi-Red Terror’, is part of a campaign of the BJP and its ideological parent RSS to “expose political violence against their workers in the state by the Communists”.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath participated in the march on Wednesday. He raised the issues of ‘love jihad’ and terrorism, which, the BJP claimed, has been supported by the ruling Vijayan-led CPM government.