It is a tightrope walk for the ruling CPM in Kerala after the State Government slapped UAPA on two of it's youths and handed over the case to National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The Kerala Governor hounding the CPM for its anti-CAA resolution and its Government moving the Supreme Court against the Act without 'keeping him in the loop' and the decision by the Congress Opposition Leader to move a resolution seeking recall of the Governor by the President cannot untie the knot of UAPA which has seen outbursts of protests within the party.
The CPM is confident of warding off the threat of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan challenging the resolution and the moving of the Supreme Court. It believes the Assembly is higher than the Governor and no rules were broken when the House unanimously passed a resolution against the Act. Following this, the State Government also created history by becoming the first to move the Supreme Court on the issue.
There is little that the Governor can do in the matter. Already Khan has earned the tag of being a voice of the BJP by using every public venue to speak for the Act after faction-riddled BJP has little ground support in the State to take forward a pro-CAA campaign.
The move by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala seeking permission to present a resolution demanding that the President recall the Governor has come handy for the CPM and Government it leads. Political pundits see in this the CPM gameplan to make others move against Khan. Already it succeeded in drawing the Congress to a common platform on its anti-CAA campaign, something it failed to do a year ago on the issue of young women entry into Sabarimala. Realising the 'danger' of Congress having to play second fiddle to the CPM in such an agitation, KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran has called for distancing itself from the CPM 'trap'.
But what bugs the CPM most is its own Government's stand to slap UAPA on two of its youths, Alan Shuhaib and Taha Fasal, over alleged Maoist links.
The two were arrested quite immediately after the killing of suspected Maoists in an 'encounter' near Attappadi a few months ago.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had gone on record saying his Government would not allow UAPA charges to be slapped on the youth. He even asserted that his party was against the 'draconian' law. But in no time he ate his own words as the police charged them under UAPA and there were even charges of their having links with extreme Islamist organisations.
This came as a big jolt for the CPM cadre. Even party general secretary Sitaram Yechury and senior leaders voiced protest against the slapping of UAPA. But as if 'under pressure from certain quarters', Pinarayi stood his ground and said the two youths were not innocent as being portrayed. This put the local leadership in a dilemma as the parents and relatives of the youths have been strong party supporters and voiced concern as the police, under the Home Minister, here again Pinarayi Vijayan, framed the charges on 'certain directives' which would have been known to the Home Minister.
Finally 'succumbing to pressures', the State Government had to hand over the youths to NIA in whose custody they are now.
The Congress tried to draw mileage from a CPM 'failure' and pledged support to the youths and promised them support. Though it remains a fact that even Congress can do little, the CPM came out against this 'Congress opportunism' and tried hard to divert attention
CPM Kozhikode district secretary P Mohanan had to publicly proclaim that the two youths were CPM members.
Though they may not be innocent, but "we cannot accept UAPA being registered against them. We have not been able to hear what the two students have to say. Only after that can we say if they have any Maoist links",was what Mohanan said.
This appeared to be dismissing the claims of Pinarayi and his Government. But a day later, Mohanan claimed that it was not against the government and a clear picture would emerge only after the students were heard. He also added that till action was taken against them, the two would remain CPM members.
Like in the issue of targeting the Governor where the Government has diplomatically maintained silence, leaving it to the party to go at him, CPM could be playing a double game, considering public sentiments and making the party try to satisfy them.
The Government had got support from senior party leader P Jayarajan who said Alan and Taha had Maoist links.
A large section of the party feels that the police framing UAPA charges would not have been 'without the knowledge of the Home Minister' which makes things more difficult for the party leadership. While it may still claim that the two youths would remain to be party members till proved guilty, the issue is expected to boomerang. It is struggling to find acceptable reasons to justify the act of slapping UAPA charges which would certainly get reflected in the coming local bodies' elections.
The Governor issue or the agitation against CAA may help in diverting public attention, but the fact remains that there is still strong public opposition to the CPM-headed Government shooting so-called Maoists. The protests by its front partner CPI which sent a team to the area and received feedback that it was a fake encounter remain indelible in public memory. As the case proceeds, CPM could find it harder to justify the Chief Minister.