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Army gets dragged into Kerala flood politics as CPM and RSS fight over who’s doing more

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RSS alleges state govt is interfering with Army’s operations; ruling CPI(M) insists it has been appreciated by rescue forces, while RSS is ‘spreading lies’.

New Delhi: As Kerala battles the greatest natural calamity to strike it in almost a century, politics has begun over rescue and relief operations between the RSS and the CPI(M), which have long been locked in a blood feud in the coastal state.

While the RSS has alleged that the state government is trying to curb the efforts of the Army and its own offshoot Seva Bharathi, fearing that people will start viewing the BJP-led Centre in positive light, the ruling CPI(M) is quoting armymen and other rescue personnel who have praised the state government’s efforts.

Also readSharing WhatsApp photo to ferrying people and food: How ‘God’s own army’ saved Kerala

RSS’s allegations

J. Nandkumar, national convener of Prajna Pravah, an RSS affiliate that calls itself an ‘umbrella organisation of several nationalist think-tanks’, compared the situation to the Uttarakhand floods of 2013 to make the point against the CPI(M) government.

“When Uttarakhand was hit, the Army was given free hand, whereas the CPM government is not ready to relinquish that power of having full hold on the state, even in a state of calamity, which they know they are not competent and equipped to handle. They fear government help, as they believe that people would then think that they have failed whereas the Centre has succeeded,” he said.

Nandkumar added: “They are even ridiculing the Army; a senior minister spoke publicly against the Army’s rescue operation. One of them had gone to Germany in the middle of the catastrophe.”

RSS prant pracharak (state in-charge), Harikrishna Kumar told ThePrint that the CPI(M) is trying to scare away people staying in Seva Bharathi relief camps by telling them they won’t get state government benefits.

“When we rescued people and made them stay at safe places, CPM cadres came and told the people they would not get any relief material and benefits meant for flood victims from the state if they continue to stay there. This was appalling. How can they do politics at such a sensitive time? We did not and cannot discriminate against people on the basis of their political leanings,” asks Kumar.

CPI(M)’s rebuttal

The CPI(M) has rebutted these charges, especially about the minister’s tour to Germany, which it says happened before the floods hit the state. The minister was soon recalled by CM Pinarayi Vijayan.

The party’s Lok Sabha MP M.B. Rajesh said the RSS and its affiliates were “spreading lies”, and that the allegations of interfering with or mocking the Army are “fake”.

“Even the Army has appreciated the role and coordination of the state government, and has stated that no such rescue operation could be completed by it alone. Even the National Disaster Response Force’s in-charge of rescue operations has praised the state government,” Rajesh said.

The CPI(M) has even alleged that the cyber cell of the RSS is engaging in fake news, pointing to the now-infamous video of a man dressed in Army fatigues urged people not to help.

“The RSS cyber cell has quietly made a fake video where the man in the Army uniform had abused the CM and criticised the state government. The Army had to come out in open stating the video is fake. The RSS is busy spreading propaganda,” said Rajesh.

Asked about such videos, Nandkumar said: “Opposition parties are playing a dirty game even in such a situation. They have created fake handles in our supporters’ names and are tweeting fake videos and comments to ambush the positive efforts of Seva Bharathi, which have been appreciated on social media.”

Also readIn Kerala flood war room, clockwork efficiency is the order of the day

Seva Bharathi’s efforts

According to an official RSS communique, Seva Bharathi is currently operating 27 centres in Kottayam district, 18 camps in Ernakulam and 11 in Idukki. They also have a big presence in Wayanad district, while two godowns are being operated in Kannur and Thalassery in Kannur district for supplies and logistics.

Asked if it was the RSS itself which was promoting the work done by Seva Bharathi, state in-charge Kumar denied it.

“The media of Kerala does not show our positive work but is always eager to highlight if there is some negative news related to us. We are not publicising our work, but there are people who believe that our work should be recognised. They are putting this on social media. They feel it is imperative to tell people about the work we do,” he said.

Asked if the BJP would later reap the benefit of the work done by RSS bodies, he said it was of no concern at the moment.

“The objective of work is not to gain mileage or benefit, but to secure people’s lives. BJP may get the benefit of our work, but it is of no concern to us right now,” he said.

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