BJP’S SPACE MISSION IN KERALA
Narendra Modi hopes highlighting the false case against S. Nambinarayanan will translate into votes
It was September 26. All that former space scientist S. Nambinarayanan knew was that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was arriving in Kerala to attend Mata Amritanandamayi’s 60th birthday celebrations. But in the morning, the former project director at the Indian Space Research Organisation ( ISRO) in Thiruvananthapuram was surprised to get a call from the Chief Minister’s secretary. Could he meet Modi by 9 p.m. at the state-owned Mascot hotel in Thiruvananthapuram where the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was staying?
Prime accused in the two-decadeold ISRO espionage case but found innocent later, 71-year-old Nambinarayanan reached the hotel on time. Modi was waiting. “He politely told me that he had wanted to meet me for long. He then asked me the details of the espionage case and my experiences. I told him the details and also the case’s CIA connection. He asked me more about the CIA links. Our meeting ended in 10 minutes,” he says. “I have nothing to do with politics. But I was so relieved that someone like Modi called me and heard about the physical and mental agony I went through. None of the five chief ministers who ruled Kerala since the case broke 19 years ago thought even once to do this.” Nambinarayanan has claimed that the spy case was cooked up by CIA to derail India’s space programme, especially to stall acquisition of sophisticated cryogenic engine technology for energy-efficient rockets from Russia.
The Modi-Nambinarayanan meeting soon kicked up a political controversy after BJP raked up the ISRO case
and demanded action against all the Intelligence Bureau ( IB) and the Kerala SIT officers who were involved in the investigation, especially R.B. Sreekumar as deputy director in the IB unit which assisted the SIT. Sreekumar, a 1971batch IPS officer from the Gujarat cadre, was additional DGP in Gujarat during the riots of 2002 and has waged a war in and out of courts against Modi, accusing him of culpability. He says BJP raked up the case to target him. “I was only number two in the IB team which assisted SIT. I never interrogated Nambinarayanan, let alone torture him. I am being targeted now at Modi’s instance,” Sreekumar, a 66-year-old Malayali now settled in Gandhinagar, told INDIA TODAY.
Sreekumar was the first among the Gujarat-cadre IPS officers to take on Modi. After his retirement in 2007, he joined hands with NGOs such as Citizens for Justice and Peace headed by Teesta Setalvad to campaign against Modi. He filed nine affidavits in various cases which contained information on what he claimed to have happened inside the police force during the riots. He says he has been staying in Gandhinagar after retirement to seek justice for riot victims and claims that it is the efforts of people such as him and Setalvad which resulted in life imprisonment for 116 riot-accused. “This is why Modi acolytes in BJP and the media are out to slander me. In another case, I have given evidence challenging the report of the SIT headed by R.K. Raghavan who gave Modi a clean chit. A special court in Ahmedabad is to pronounce its verdict on December 13. The Modi government could have charged me with perjury had it found any false or untrue information in my affidavits,” says Sreekumar, winner of President’s police medals for distinguished service.
The ISRO case is the latest in a series of political operations Modi has initiated since April as part of Operation Lotus in Kerala. BJP is shunned by all political parties in both the ruling United Democratic Front and the Opposition Left Democratic Front, mainly due to the fear that an alliance with it might antagonise the minorities who form 45 per cent of the population. This has made BJP unable so far to get more than 10 per cent of the vote share in any elections even though Kerala tops the country in the number of RSS shakhas at 4,310, four times that of Gujarat. Modi himself has announced that BJP would win at least two of the 20 Lok Sabha seats this time.
Modi has been the chief guest at two of Kerala’s most popular spiritual institutions recently. The first was in April at the Sivagiri Mutt, organised by SNDP, the powerful spiritual organisation of the Ezhavas, a politically significant OBC community. This was followed by his highly publicised visit to inaugurate the popular spiritual leader Amritanandamayi’s birthday celebrations. Significantly, Amritanandamayi too belongs to the backward Araya caste, though her popularity cuts across caste divisions. Add to that the three-day meeting of the RSS national executive, Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal, at Kochi, and the political relevance of the state for Modi becomes amply clear.
THOUGH I HOPED MODI WOULD ASK ME ABOUT SREEKUMAR’S ROLE, I WAS SURPRISED THAT HE DIDN’T MENTION A WORD ABOUTHIM DURING OUR 10-MINUTE DISCUSSION.”
S. NAMBINARAYANAN (TOP) SAYS R.B. SREEKUMAR (RIGHT) DIDN’TTORTURE HIM BUTHE CANNOTSHAKE OFFTHE CULPABILITY