THOOTHUKUDI: The former Chief Minister of Kerala R Shankar has emerged as a high value icon for the Congress in the state after the BJP began attempts to appropriate his legacy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi left the Congress camp jolted after he unveiled the statue of the deceased leader, who was also the PCC president and SNDP general secretary in Kollam recently.
Modi had digged out Sankar’s efforts along with Nair community leader the late Mannath Padmanabhan, to establish a ‘Hindu Mahamandal’, besides the close ties he is said to have had with the Jana Sangh founder, the late Syama Prasad Mukherjee. Sankar (1909-1972) was the third chief minister of Kerala from 1962 to 1964 and deputy chief minister from 1960 to 1962. During his association with the SNDP Yogam for 13 years, he had served as its general secretary for over 10 years.
Modi’s portrayal of Sankar as a Hindutva leader drew all-round flak, while the Congress condemned it in strong terms, dubbing it as nothing but a Sangh Parivar design and futile attempt to hijack the legacy of eminent leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and B R Ambedkar for their political gains.
Modi sought to position Sankar as one who had followed the path of Sree Narayana Guru, and also was as a crusader of Hindu unity over and above the SNDP pantheon he led. “Attempts of the PM to establish a connect between Sankar and Jan Sangh is heinous, deplorable and a distortion of history and facts. Attempts to usurp the legacy of the Congress stalwart leader would be rejected by the people with the contempt it deserved,” said KPCC president V M Sudheeran.
Sankar’s son Mohan Sankar, who is an office-bearer of the SNDP, had flayed the attempt of Modi and BJP to make an RSS man out of his father. Mohan and his siblings, who had kept away from the statue-unveiling function in protest against turning the event into a BJP gala, said that their father was a true Congress man till his last breath.
Chief minister Oommen Chandy had created a stir after he disclosed that he had been asked by the SNDP Yogam general secretary Vellappally Natesan to stay away from the function attended by Modi in Kollam. After dashing off a letter to Modi on his return from the Kerala visit, Chandy also raised suspicion that it was the PMO, and not Natesan, which insisted on his exclusion from the ceremony.