A people's rebellion against the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala's Keezhattoor is turning opportune for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state. The crux of the rebellion- a paddy field- has turned into BJP's ammo to make inroads into an otherwise CPI(M) bastion.
For over a week now, people of Keezhattoor are on a hunger strike protesting against leveling of paddy fields for a National Highway project. CPM's bastion is now reverberating with slogans against the party and the government. Sensing opportunity to turn the tide in their favour, BJP leaders have started visiting the region to join villagers in their protest and extend support.
Considering that the village is a stronghold of the CPM, the party had issued a diktat not to protest the project- a four-lane highway bypassing Thaliparambu town. Villagers, including former CPM leaders, have defied the diktat- a huge embarrassment to the cadre-driven CPM. One kilometer stretch of the proposed highway passes through a cultivated paddy field at Keezhattoor and has become the bone of contention. Protests are being led by 68-year-old Nambradath Janaki after Suresh Keezhattoor, a former member of the CPM, who started the protests, fell ill.
The CPM had warned the villagers against protesting. "The protests are unnecessary. We denounced the agitation in Keezhattoor against the leveling of paddy fields," said
CPM Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan during a public meeting.
Sensing the opportunity, the BJP in the state is looking to win the trust and favour of the people. A host of BJP leaders led by state unit chief Kummanam Rajasekharan visited the village and sat with the protestors in solidarity. "The state government has decided to build the road through Keezhattoor without conducting any studies. We are with the villagers and the BJP will bring the issue to the notice of the National Highways Authority of India and the Union ministry," said Kummanam Rajasekharan.
The farmers' protest comes in the wake of a never-before-seen drought situation in Kerala. Concerns over reclamation of wetlands leading to drinking water is another concern.