The T P Chandrasekharan murder case verdict could land a heavy blow to the party’s Lok Sabha ambitions
The verdict in the sensational T P Chandrasekharan murder case came at the most inopportune time for the Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), when the party – which is riven by factional feuds and struggling to rejuvenate demoralised cadre – is preparing for the Lok Sabha elections.
On Tuesday (January 28), a Kerala court awarded 11 people, including three local CPI-M leaders, life imprisonment for hacking to death Chandrasekharan, popularly known as TP, the president of the Revolutionary Marxist Party or RMP – a breakaway group of CPI-M – on May 4, 2012. Of the 12 convicted, one had been awarded three years’ imprisonment earlier.
The judge’s observation that the motive of the murder was political and not personal enmity belied the claims of CPI-M, which had been trying to distance itself from the crime. CPI-M leaders, sentenced to life imprisonment, are: P K Kunhananthan, K C Ramachandran, and Manoj.
The verdict, however, hasn’t brought closure to the victim’s family. K K Rema, widow of Chandrasekharan, is planning to sit on a fast in Thiruvananthapuram, demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the murder. This promises to keep the issue alive, for some time now.
Although the party had engineered several political murders, as CPI-M’s Idukki district secretary M M Mani had infamously boasted, never before had the party landed in such an embarrassing position. The incident had widened the rift between the factions led by V S Achuthanandan, the Leader of Opposition in state Assembly, and Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI-M state secretary.
After his death, Achuthanandan had said TP was a “real communist” and a “bold leader” and visited the slain leader’s house to pay his last respects, much to the CPI-M’s chagrin. The CPI-M had to pay a heavy price since it lost in the Neyyantinkara bypoll. In many places, workers quit the party or became inactive.
Observers said the murder will have its impact on at least two Lok Sabha seats in north Kerala. This means a lot for the party, which is trying to bag maximum number of seats from the state as it faces a “rout” in its erstwhile bastion of West Bengal.
To avert embarrassment, the CPI-M is learnt to have asked Achuthanandan not to visit Rema when she sits on fast. Supporting Rema’s demand, Achuthanandan had recently said, “Rema’s demand for a CBI probe was just and everyone should respect the opinion of the poor widow.” However, the CPI-M state committee said Rema’s demand was “unconstitutional”.
“The police had already investigated the case and the judiciary has pronounced the verdict in one of the cases related to the murder. Since the court hasn’t raised any question on the investigation, the demand for a probe by another agency raises serious doubts,” S Ramachandran Pillai, CPI-M politburo member, told Business Standard.
Although the CPI-M is putting up a brave front, nervousness is palpable, at least in Kannur. The party, which gets furious even at the mention of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s name, has allowed members of NaMo Vichar Manch, a splinter group of the BJP, to join it. “Even top CPI-M leaders came to welcome them. This is a desperate act: The party wants to protect its turf by hook or by crook,” said a BJP leader.
TP, who built the party at Onchiyam in Kozhikode, used to be a staunch supporter of Achuthanandan. He opposed the neo-liberal policies of the CPI-M, and corruption and opulence of a section of its leaders. “TP had become a thorn in the flesh of the CPI-M, as he had started exposing the lifestyles of leaders in the Pinarayi group,” said Professor Konni Gopakumar, additional private secretary to state finance minister and a former CPI-M worker.
According to the police, the assailants first hurled country-made bombs at Chandrasekharan, who was riding a motorcycle. When he fell down, he was hacked to death. His face was mutilated beyond recognition since he was hacked 51 times.
Kerala, especially the Malabar region, had witnessed scores of political killings in the last two decades, with Kannur earning the epithet “killing field” of the state. According to an estimate, about 60 people died and scores were maimed in over 3,500 political clashes in Kannur alone since 1998.
Recent political murders revealed new trends in killer politics, as parties are hiring contract killers to eliminate political rivals. A police officer who investigated the murder said, “Contract killers execute the plan professionally. After the job is done, the parties provide legal help and protection. This modus operandi was first noticed in the murder of BJP Yuva Morcha leader KT Jayakrishnan Master in 1999. He was hacked to death in front of minor school children. He too sustained 41 hack wounds. A similar method was used in the TP murder case also.”
The professional killers who got life imprisonment for the murder are: M C Anoop, Manoj Kumar alias Kirmani Manoj, N K Sunil Kumar alias Kodi Suni, T K Rajeesh, K K Muhammad Shafi, S Sijith alias Annan Shijith and K Shinoj.
According to reports, TP’s killers together were involved in about 75 criminal cases, including nine murder cases. A majority of their victims belonged to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and allied organisations. Kodi Suni has been facing 37 criminal cases. He was the first accused in the murder of Popular Front of India’s Muhammed Fazal in 2006. Fazal was also a CPI-M member.