A political spectacle is unfolding for the Vellappally family in Kanichukulangara village of Kerala’s Alappuzha district at a dramatic pace. While Vellappally Natesan, who formed the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) in 2015, ostensibly with the backing of Sangh Parivar, is the new poster boy of Chief Minister and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan as chairman of the “Renaissance Protection Samithi”, son Thushar has been named the BJP-led NDA’s candidate for Wayanad Lok Sabha seat.
Thushar, BDJS’s state unit president, will take on Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and CPI’s P P Suneer from the seat.
Protection Samithi, an umbrella outfit of various Hindu organisations, was formed with the CPM-led LDF government’s backing to counter the Sangh Parivar-led campaign against entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala temple last year. Thushar was part of protests by Hindu groups against the Vijayan government’s decision to enforce the Supreme Court’s order.
While Natesan had last week said Thushar could contest only after quitting SNDP Yogam, he was seen blessing his son after his candidature was announced. On Monday, asked whether he will campaign for Thushar, Natesan said, “As general secretary of SNDP Yogam, I will not campaign for the NDA. The Yogam has taken a stand to be not associated with any political party, (as) Yogam members belong to various political parties.’’
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Thushar said although Natesan had founded BDJS, “now he has no role in the party. As the SNDP Yogam president, he cannot take part in BDJS politics — it is up to the Yogam to decide whether I should continue as its office-bearer.”
Thushar, who was a businessman, joined politics after Natesan, general secretary of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP Yogam), a prominent group representing the politically powerful Ezhava community, formed BDJS. As a key NDA partner, Natesan had campaigned extensively in the 2016 Kerala polls.
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The alliance did not help BJP win any seat from the Ezhava stronghold of central Kerala, although the party bagged one seat from southern district of Thiruvananthapuram.
The Ezhavas have been traditionally Left voters, and with the Nair Service Society (NSS), an upper caste Hindu group, developing strained ties with CPM over the Sabarimala issue, the party had reasons to maintain bonhomie with Natesan even after the pilgrim season ended. On February 25, a five-member team of the LDF government, led by CM Vijayan, visited the family at their home in Alappuzha district.
Natesan, who has stake in the civil construction industry and liquor business, received a windfall in the form of Rs 5 crore aid from the state government for Kanichukulangara temple, and the government included it in the pilgrim circuit —Natesan is the temple committee president.
Opposition Congress, meanwhile, pointed out Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau’s investigations against the father-son duo in several cases of alleged misappropriation of funds availed from the state Backward Class Development Corporation. Billed as a micro-finance scam, the FIR states that SNDP Yogam had received Rs 15.85 crore from the Corporation between 2003 and 2014 — money that was allegedly misused.
Calling Natesan an “opportunist”, senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran said, “He is backing the CPM to escape legal action in the micro-finance scam. At the same time, he has given his son to the BJP to ensure protection from action by the Centre.”