KK Rema is a symbol of resilience in Kerala’s vendetta politics. Largely unknown until before 2012, the state now listens to her with rapt attention.
Now an MLA representing Vadakara — she won with the UDF’s backing — Rema also symbolises dissidence.
She took up an active role in parliamentary politics after her husband, TP Chandrasekharan, was brutally murdered by a gang of CPI(M)-hired goons on 4 May, 2012. The brutality had then shaken the collective conscience of Kerala. The incident made the state sit up and ponder the futility of political vendetta.
Chandrasekharan was killed since he had founded the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) after parting ways with the CPI(M). He left the CPI(M) because of the Left party’s deviance from its claimed ideology.
The CPI(M) found the RMP’s growing support in Vadakara and neighbouring areas disturbing, and it culminated in the elimination of Chandrasekharan, popularly known as TP.
The RMP responded with an Ernest Hemingway quote: “A man can be destroyed, but not defeated.” True to the word, Rema kept speaking, often forcing CPI(M) on the defensive.
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Donning the mantle
TP Chandrasekharan still lives on, through a resilient Rema. She stands adamant despite the CPI(M)’s onslaught, in and outside the state Legislative Assembly.
Though KK Rema won the 2021 Assembly polls with UDF support, she remains a one-woman army. The UDF backing has not affected her decisions as an MLA. She remains the lone member in the Kerala Assembly independent of both the LDF and UDF.
On 15 March, unruly scenes marred the state Assembly over Speaker AN Shamseer’s refusal to allow an adjournment motion. Rema was among those injured in the melee.
In a telephonic interview with South First, Rema narrated the reason for the protest, her complaint against Sachin Dev, MLA, the CPI(M) unofficial cyber wing spreading canards about her, and the need for further investigation into the Chandrasekharan murder.
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KK Rema said she is recovering from her injury and awaiting an MRI report to know if further treatments are required.
On 15 March, the Opposition moved an adjournment motion on the violence against women. The Speaker denied the motion.
Rema said the Opposition’s protest was a natural response to the Speaker’s denial. “We went in front of the Chair to protest. The Opposition leader’s mike was immediately switched off so that he could not speak. It was for the third consecutive day that the Speaker had denied permission for the adjournment motion. The Opposition members discussed the next steps at the Opposition leader’s office and we decided to beef up the protest in the Assembly,” she said.
Rema said that the Opposition’s intention was to register its protest and not to prevent the Speaker from carrying out his duties.
“We sat in the well and raised slogans. But the watch and ward personnel held my hand and leg. I tried to resist, and they pulled my hand hard, injuring me. Though my hand was hurting, I continued the protest,” Rema, whose hand is now in a cast, said.
The Vadakara MLA also alleged that Speaker Shamseer was non-partisan initially, but of late, he has been executing the directives issued by the CPI(M) leadership.
KK Rema’s complaint against MLA Sachin Dev
Soon after she was injured, numerous CPI(M) profiles on social media claimed that she was faking the injury. CPI(M) state secretary MV Govindan was among those who questioned Rema’s injury.
KK Rema held CPI(M) MLA Sachin Dev responsible for creating the false narrative in cyberspace. She said he questioned her credibility through a Facebook post, which was taken up by the cyber wing of the CPI(M) to spread false information against her.
“He claimed in the post that I had changed the cast from one hand to the other. He used a film dialogue and my images to convey his point. The CPI(M)’s cyber wing released trolls against me. The baseless, false claims were made in an extremely derogatory manner. Sachin’s post was the base for the trolls. Hence I complained to the police cyber cell as well as the Speaker,” she said.
Her complaint, however, has been gathering dust. No action has been taken either by the cyber cell or the Speaker.
Rema, a former SFI activist, said the youth and student wings of the CPI(M) have changed. She alleged that the youth and student activists are blindly supporting the party without critically assessing issues.
“At present, there is a blind belief in whatever decision the party takes. There is no space for relationships or treatment of the other in a humane manner,” she said.
“The youngsters are willing to do whatever the party wants. Youngsters like Sachin should have enquired about the truth behind the issue and then tried to respond. But it is disappointing that he didn’t do it,” she lamented.
Aged 29, Dev is the youngest MLA in the 15th Kerala Assembly.
“The CPI(M) is ready to unleash false propaganda to take on those opposing that party. This is a fascist method. Their intention is to silence opponents by any means. For 11 years we have sacrificed so much, we endured so much loss and pain to build this political movement,” she further stated.
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Pinarayi’s ‘role’ in TP Chandrasekharan murder
“I come from a family that fully supported the CPI(M). Initially, my father refused to believe that the CPI(M) had murdered TP Chandrasekharan. ‘My party will never do it’, he used to say,” Rema said.
Seven people were later convicted for murdering Chandrasekharan and three others of criminal conspiracy.
Rema said the investigation did not go deep into the case. It did not look into the involvement of the top leadership in the murder.
“We have been saying that the decision to murder Chandrasekharan was not taken by the local leadership of the party but the top leadership has played a role. The then state secretary of the CPI(M) is the present chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan. From the beginning, I have been alleging that Pinarayi Vijayan had played a role in the murder,” she said.
Vijayan calling Chandrasekharan a Kulamkuthi (renegade) soon after the murder augmented her doubts.
“Even after the demise of a person, if he would use such words to describe Chandrasekaran, I believe there was a larger conspiracy involving Vijayan. I have other details, which I have shared with the investigators,” Rema said.
However, she added that her allegation has to be proved in court. She expressed doubt about whether such details were submitted before the court.
“We have requested a CBI investigation, but it needs the state’s sanction, which I don’t think will be provided by the present government. We still don’t know what will happen to the investigation. Those wielding power and having money could obliterate cases. The investigation’s further progress is a big question,” she added.
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Life after TP Chandrasekharan
Talking about her life after the death of her husband, KK Rema said, “After Chandrasekharan’s demise my first aim was to continue his politics. We initiated numerous developments in our politics. We expanded our movement nationally. Several independent organisations came together, and we forged a national party in 2017. The RMP changed its name to RMPI. Our party is functioning in seven states.”
She expressed the belief that she has been trying her best to serve the people of Vadakara.
“But it’s up to the people in Vadakara to judge me,” she added. “We have been focusing on providing higher education to the common man by providing adequate support and training. Besides, we are also trying to address the challenges people face,” Rema said.
UDF more democratic
KK Rema asserted that she doesn’t attend the all-party meetings of the UDF, since she strictly stays separate from the front. But she attends the meetings of the Opposition members in the House.
“I don’t attend the UDF meetings, but if there is a common meeting of Opposition MLAs, I attend them. Also, I sit separately in the Assembly. I mean my decisions are taken independently. On issues that require larger solidarity, I join the Opposition,” she said.
Rema said the UDF has made it clear that they are providing the support without expecting her to change her stance on issues and she can have her independent opinion, which need not be in line with the UDF.
“They (UDF) took a very democratic stand in the beginning and they continue it. Once, during a discussion in the Assembly over pensions for women homemakers, we had differences of opinion but that did not lead to any confrontation or murder. One characteristic I found in UDF is that it allows freedom of expression,” she said.
“In the LDF, we will have to pay a heavy price for dissent,” Rema concluded.