BJP’S SPACE MIS­SION IN KER­ALA

Naren­dra Modi hopes high­light­ing the false case against S. Nambinarayanan will trans­late into votes

India Today - - NATION - By M.G. Rad­hakr­ish­nan

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.

—S.Nambinarayanan

C SHANKAR

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

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