Does Kadakampally’s Guruvayur visit hint at Kerala CPM's changing attitude towards religion?

First Published 15, Sep 2017, 3:31 PM IST
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  • Minister Kadakampally Surendran visited the Sreekrishna Temple in Guruvayur on the occasion of Ashtami Rohini
  • Kadakampally prayed before the deity, offered 'pushpanjali', received 'kalabham' and also gave a 'dakshina' to the priest 
  • The media and state BJP leaders were quick to pounce on Kadakampally as the incident proved a major blow to the CPM

The controversy surrounding Kerala minister and CPM leader Kadakampally Surendran's recent visit to the Guruvayur temple refuses to die down, with veteran Left leaders alleging clear violation of party norms.

Kadakampally visited the renowned Sreekrishna Temple in Guruvayur on the occasion of Ashtami Rohini on Tuesday. He prayed before the deity, offered 'pushpanjali' for his family members, received 'kalabham' and also gave a 'dakshina' to the priest. 

According to temple sources, the minister entered the Adhyatmika hall where the 'sapthaham' was on and listened to the discourse in attention. He also contributed an amount for 'annadanam' (offering food for the poor).

The media and state BJP leaders were quick to pounce on Kadakampally as the incident proved a major blow to the CPM-led government, which had decided in the past the party leaders should not participate in religious events, especially temple rituals. 

Kadakampally’s clarification - that he was merely discharging his duty as the devaswom minister and that the prayers and offerings were made for his family members since they are believers - failed to shut up his and the party's critics. CPM leaders such as secretariat member MV Govindan came out criticising the minister, saying the act did not fit a Marxist leader who believed in dialectical materialism. 

It should be noted that the CPM had brought out a rectification document adopted by the Central Committee in 2009, which laid down guidelines for both party leaders and the cadre. One of the guidelines in the document was educate the party members to eschew all social, caste and religious practices which are alien to Communist norms.   

Though Marxists are not supposed to offer prayers or even visit places of worship, several party cadres tend to do the same. However, the party leaders generally keep away from such events even if it's a family function. Decades ago, a major controversy erupted when party ideologue EMS Namboodiripad accompanied his wife to a temple, claiming that he didn't want to interfere with his wife's beliefs.

It's interesting to note that there has been a slight change in CPM's approach to religious events in recent years. The CPM had earlier opposed the 'shobha yatra', saying it was a strain on children. DYFI activists had even undertaken a door-to-door campaign against parading children on the streets.

However, the Left party set aside their concern for children as well their atheistic views and launched a parallel procession in 2015. Organised under the aegis of Balasangham, the procession first started in Kannur but eventually spread to other parts of the state. Despite being staunch critics of the Hindutva ideology, the CPM-backed procession had deities and children dressed up as Krishna and Radha in it.

In another recent development, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had criticised the revenue department and the Idukki district collector for the demolition of a cross built on encroached land in Munnar.

When asked about Kadakampally's temple visit, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told reporters he would seek an explanation from the minister on the issue. Ironically, Kodiyeri had found himself in the eye of the storm in the recent past, when his family offered prayers at the famous Kadampuzha Devi Temple in Malappuram.