On a day when news websites and television channels flashed pictures of him with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, Pratheesh Viswanath, 34, was busy dodging some uncomfortable questions. For, Viswanath, seen as the catalyst in bringing the BJP and the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam together in Kerala, is now in the limelight for his alleged role in “orchestrating” the police raid at Kerala House.
According to BJP sources in Kerala, Viswanath is a “climber who played his cards well with the national leadership and the media”. But on Tuesday, he was busy clarifying he had no role in the raid. Meanwhile in Kerala, both the BJP and the SNDP distanced themselves from Viswanath, saying he was “only a translator” during their talks.
“Some friends sent me a picture of the menu. I posted it on my Facebook page. I did not know it would create such an uproar. I came to know when CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan protested against it,” he told The Indian Express.
When told that Hindu Sena activists were claiming he had informed them, Viswanath said he would take “legal action” against them. “I have never seen Kerala House; I have been a vegan since I started working with the VHP,” he said.
A Kerala High Court lawyer by profession, Viswanath is also the all-India joint coordinator of a helpline set up by the VHP to help “victims of love jihad”. “I have worked with the VHP in tribal areas for 10 years. I made a lot of contacts then. I am very close to VHP leaders (Praveen) Togadia and (Ashok) Singhal,” he claimed. “Personally, I am close to general secretary of the SNDP (Tushar Vellappally),” he added.
It was these links that helped him find a place in the team that represented the SNDP Yogam, an influential organisation of the Ezhava community in Kerala which met the PM to finalise a political tie-up in the state. “I was a translator for the SNDP leaders and the VHP due to my personal rapport with both parties,” he said.
— Veena Venugopal (@veenavenugopal) October 27, 2015
But sources in BJP’s Kerala unit claimed he “used his acquaintance” with VHP leaders and his friendship with Tushar to “create an impression” that he was crucial in cobbling together the alliance.
“He is not a member of the state general secretaries team, the core group, the state office bearers or the state committee. Nor does he have a position in the RSS here,” said a source. “He talks well and is able to impress people. So when Togadiaji wanted to set up a hospital in a backward area in Idukki, he took his help,” the source said.
According to two state BJP leaders, Viswanath was a part of a “rehabilitation centre for Hindu girls who elope with Muslim men but then want to return to their families”. But some “complaints” forced the organisers to sack him, they claimed.
Viswanath, however, denied this and claimed he was with Togadia just two days ago. “I am a lawyer and I represented the Paithrika Grama Karma Samithi in their the anti-airport agitation in Aranmula,” he said.