Making clear the CPIM stand, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan created a history of sorts by going to the house of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam president Vellappally Natesan's house on Monday.
Though his visit to Cherthala was as part of the inauguration of a state tourism project at Kanichukulangara temple, there is a bigger political strategy in Pinarayi's going to the community organisation leader's house around the time campaign for the Lok Sabha election is set to go in full swing.
It has not been the practice of the CPIM, especially Pinarayi, to visit houses of leaders of community organisation leaders. And surprisingly, he went there with a host of his cabinet colleagues - Finance Minister Thomas Issac, PWD Minister G Sudhakaran, Civil Supplies Minister P Thilothaman and Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran.
The visit assumes significance in the backdrop of the battle of words with Sukumaran Nair, leader of the Nair Service Society (NSS). The Sabarimala young women entry issue had seen the NSS go all-out against the Pinarayi Government. NSS has stood a firm ground on the issue and twice rejected Pinarayi's offer for talks which has embittered the CPIM.
In the case of SNDP, representing the Ezhava community which has been CPIM’s strong vote bank, Vellappally's vacillation has seen him be on different sides. On the Sabarimala issue where he took a pronounced stand against young women entry, Vellappally stood with the CPIM Women Wall programme to uphold renaissance values and gender equality. He was even the chief functionary for the January 1 Wall programme. A day later when two young women worshipped at the shrine, Vellappally showed his true colours and was highly critical of the Government.
On Monday, Pinarayi and team arrived half an hour in advance and after the house visit, the Chief Minister even announced an additional sum for the tourism felicitation centre constructed at Kanichukulangara temple spending Rs 3.33 crore. Incidentally, Vellappally has been president of the temple board for years.
The granting of the project to Kanichukulangara temple is seen in political circles as a sort of thanksgiving to the favours received during the Women Wall. With the NSS and brahmins have been on the opposite camp, forcing the CPIM to keep a large section of Hindus with it. The visit to Natesan's house is a clear signal of this wooing tactics.
During the last Assembly elections, the SNDP with its newly formed political arm BDJS, was part of the BJP-led NDA. To ensure that this is not repeated as the Sabarimala issue has weaned away a good section of Hindu voters from the CPIM, Pinarayi has blatantly gone out to keep the SNDP on its side.
CPIM veteran VS Achuthanandan has been leading a fight in court against Vellappally over microfinance fraud, leaving Pinarayi and the SNDP leader embarrassed. Given Vellappally's dilly-dallying and lack of consistency in stand, it remains to be seen how successful Pinarayi's playing with community organisations, especially SNDP, will work in his favour.