Hailing from an upper-caste Hindu milieu that had the Cheranallur Bhagavathy temple as its focal point, it was natural for A.N. Radhakrishnan to be attracted to the Hindu-centric ideology of the RSS. At the age of 5, he joined the Sangh and at 19 he was made a ‘pracharak,’ a coveted position for RSS cadres. The next five years he spent in Kannur and Malappuram districts taking the RSS line of thinking to the working-class and lower middle-class Hindu homes.
“Those were my formative years,” Mr. Radhakrishnan, now one of the four general secretaries of the BJP in Kerala, told The Hindu in an interview. “The life in Malabar equipped me with the skills for interacting with people.”
Because of his people skills, the RSS drafted Mr. Radhakrishnan for political work. He was made the Ernakulam district convenor of the Hindu Munnani. Soon, in 1987, he was appointed as the BJP’s district secretary. Twenty-five years down the lane, Mr. Radhakrishnan, 52, is one of the top brass of the BJP in the State. With his friendly persona, he the public face of the party as well as the Sangh Parivar in Kochi region. He also serves as an interface between the RSS, the minorities and Dalits. He is a businessman too—he owns an event management firm.
When asked about the recent debate triggered by a kite-flying article in the RSS magazine Kesari about a futuristic tie-up between the BJP and the CPI(M), Mr. Radhakrishnan was a bit evasive. “Let’s see when it (the alliance) comes,” he said. “Anyway, a CPI(M)-BJP alliance in the near future is in the realm of speculation. I don’t believe the political climate is ripe for it.”
He, however, claimed that both the BJP and CPI(M) had strong ‘Hindu bases.’ But, the UDF was taking advantage of the old rivalries between these two ‘Hindu-based’ parties. He also claimed that the CPI(M) was a party on the wane, while the BJP was on a growth trajectory in the State. There was no harm in the two parties coming together. They had worked together on some issues in the past.
Mr. Radhakrishnan said the BJP was not against alliance with any party. Politically, it was a pragmatic party. “As K.G. Mararji pointed out, the BJP has no political enemies, only political opponents.”
“In tiny Kerala, the RSS has its largest number of sakhas (units)—around 6,000— even overtaking the Sangh’s home State of Maharashtra. These are apart from thousands of other Parivar outfits and Hindutva organisations. Yet, in spite of all these, why is it that the BJP could not make it to the Assembly?”
Mr. Radhakrishnan blamed it on the UDF-LDF bipartisan political culture in Kerala. Moreover, in a State where the minorities were very strong, finding political space for a national party that relied heavily on the Hindutva ideology was a little hard. However, he claimed that the grassroots networks of the party were very wide and strong. The Neyyattinkara by-election in which the BJP got 30,000-odd votes was a turning point for the party.
He is hopeful of the outcome of the coming together of the NSS and SNDP and the consolidation of Hindu sentiments in the aftermath of the Muslim League getting a fifth Cabinet berth. These might help the party make it big at the next Assembly election, he felt.
But, in a State where Muslims and Christians made up around 45 per cent of the population, wouldn’t the oversell of anti-minority line, the USP of the BJP, backfire in electoral politics? “We are not against Muslims, we are only against the favours given to rich Muslims,” he asserted.
Asked about the infighting in the State BJP, Mr. Radhakrishnan papered it over saying it was the creation of media. He also denied that there was any ‘trading’ of BJP votes, a frequent allegation against the party at election time.
He said the threat by Yuva Morcha leader Sobha Surendran that the morcha would not allow the screening of the film ‘Kalimannu’, which showed the actor Shweta Menon giving birth, was not a collective decision of the party. The party had not discussed it. “It’s probably a morcha initiative.” The party has no intention for ‘moral policing.’
“The BJP in Kerala has turned around, it is on a fast growing mode now,” he repeated. Mr. Radhakrishnan, who has fought and lost two Lok Sabha elections and two Assembly elections, should know.