With a large number of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) cadre accused in the 2012 murder of T.P. Chandrasekheran, the Congress unit in Kerala smelt an opportunity to score political points.
However, as a trial court acquitted 20 of the 56 accused Wednesday last for lack of evidence, the factionalism within the Kerala unit of the Congress came to the fore. Congress factions under the respective leadership of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state party president Ramesh Chennithala reacted differently to the verdict.
It appears now that the Chennithala faction of the Congress may be rather more saddened by the acquittals than the family of Chandra sekheran. “It’s most unfortunate that 20 of the accused have now been let off for want of evidence.
Has the probe team done a good and fair job,” asked Laly Vincent, the only woman vice president of the state Congress. K.K. Rema, wife of the slain leader, said she had complete trust in the prosecution.
She said repeated threatening by the CPI-M had caused 50 witnesses in the case to turn hostile, leading to the acquittal of the 20 accused. K. Muraleedharan, son of former Kerala chief minister K. Karunakaran, who has now emerged as a spokesman of sorts for the Chennithala faction of the Congress party, said: “This was one case which had dented the image of the CPI-M, and our party could have used this case as the biggest weapon in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.”
Muraleedharan also urged that the government order a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the case. The May 4, 2012, murder of Chandrasekheran, who was ousted from the CPI-M in 2008 and went on to launch the Revolutionary Marxist Party, occurred as the 51-year-old was returning home near Onchiyam in Kozhikode district.
He was hacked 51 times by a group of armed assailants. The police swung into action and rounded up 56 people, many of them senior CPI-M leaders from Kozhikode and Kannur districts. There are leaders within the Chennithala faction who believe that the 20 acquittals may also have been quid pro quo for the CPI-M’s withdrawal of the siege it had laid on the state secretariat last month, just a day after announcing that the novel form of protest would continue, until the chief minister resigned over what was termed the “solar scam,” in which former members of Chandy’s personal staff were allegedly involved.
State Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the main public prosecutor in the T.P. Chandrasekheran murder case was one of the tallest leaders of the Congress party in North Kerala, who belonged to the Chennithala faction.
In response, Kozhikode district Congress president K.C. Abu said: “In a situation when even the legendary Diego Maradona might have found it hard to hit a goal, here now we have Escobars aplenty; it’s becoming easier to score own goals.” (Escobar, it may be recalled, was the Colombian footballer who scored an own goal in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and was later shot dead, allegedly as his mistake upset the gambling calculations of powerful drug lords.) The CPI-M too has seen much division over the murder.
Former Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan, much to the dislike of his CPI-M party secretary Vijayan, publicly decried the dastardly murder and went to pay his last respects to his slain former colleague. Last year, June 2, Achuthanandan visited Chandrasekheran’s widow Rema at a time when a crucial assembly by-election was taking place in the capital district.
Achuthanandan had indirectly mentioned that no one is likely to believe that the CPI-M had no link to the murder. Many in the ruling Congress will long rue the lost tactical opportunity offered by this murder case for political one-upmanship.