The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP courts Kerala rebels

New Delhi, May 19: Without any allies and its account still blank in Kerala, a desperate BJP is trying to woo the state’s backward but powerful Ezhava community.

In the past one month, senior leaders like .K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and M. Venkaiah Naidu have visited the state and approached the leaders of the community.

Their overtures have come in the wake of the community’s disenchantment with the CPM. The Ezhavas, who have traditionally supported the Marxists, are disillusioned with the CPM for losing “its backward orientation” and the community’s leaders are planning to float a political party.

Of the 52 per cent Hindus in Kerala, the Ezhavas constitute 25 per cent. Brahmin dominance and the practice of untouchability before the reach of communism had made the Ezhavas band together under their guru Sree Narayana and revolt against the Hindu caste order.

Ezhava leaders now feel that the Left parties have abandoned their backward orientation by joining hands with forward castes and other communal forces. So, of late, the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, an apolitical outfit of the Ezhavas founded in 1903 by Sree Narayana Guru, has been warming up to the BJP.

Yogam general secretary Vellapalli Nateshan had visited Delhi recently and called on Advani and Joshi. Nateshan blasted both the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front for not “adopting a backward community orientation”.

Though Nateshan denied any move to align with the BJP, the Yogam yesterday invited Advani to unveil a statue of the late K. Sukumaran, a leader of the community and founder editor of the Kerala Kaumudi, a daily in Thiruvananthapuram.

Earlier this month, the Yogam had invited Joshi to inaugurate its convention and global meet at Cochin. This was the first time that it had invited a top-ranked BJP leader to one of its functions.

After unveiling the statue yesterday, Advani dismissed criticism that the Yogam was being “saffronised”. The deputy Prime Minister said those who advocated such a view were adopting an attitude of “untouchability”.

He said Sree Narayana Guru was a social reformer whose name was not confined to Kerala or the Ezhava community. The icon, he added, fought for all those who faced discrimination and yearned for social justice.

“If by attending this function, someone says that I have become yellow (the colour of the Yogam flag), I am not worried, I am happy,” he said.

Inaugurating the Ezhava convention in Cochin a fortnight ago, Joshi had announced that he would include the teachings of Sree Narayana Guru in the NCERT and the CBSE syllabi and set up a national university in his name.

The Yogam can turn itself into a “propeller” of economic transformation and political change, the human resources development minister said.

Urging the community to take a “fresh lead” in the political and economic resurgence of the state, Joshi said the time had come to discard backward-looking political ideologies that thrive on class conflict, bandhs and violence.

Nateshan blasted the previous LDF government for not fulfilling its promises to the community. “Caste system is a reality. In such a prevailing atmosphere, the only way to achieve social equality and justice is through all round empowerment of a community,” he said.

Nateshan said the Ezhavas formed a major chunk of Kerala’s population but the community has not got its due share though the Constitution guaranteed rights to all sections.

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