Will the 96-year-old KR Gouri, former Communist firebrand and four-time minister in Communist-led governments, wind up her long, eventful and colourful political career by becoming a BJP camp-follower?
Hurt by the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front’s unexpected decision to deny her Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samiti even a single seat to contest in the upcoming Assembly election, Gouri (Gouri amma for Keralites), is said to be toying with the idea of turning right to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s camp.
Sensing Gouri’s deep hurt and smelling a prize catch, the BJP had moved quickly after the LDF’s decision on Monday to woo her to the NDA. The JSS (Rajan Babu), which had broken away from Gouri’s party, had recently joined the NDA. The BJP, it is learnt, is using her former colleagues to encourage her to make the cross-over.
“I welcome the NDA’s invitation,” Gouri told the media on Wednesday. She said the CPI(M) had cheated her outright and that she had not felt this hurt even in 1994 when it expelled her. However, she was tight-lipped on her response to the BJP invitation. All that she would say was that her party’s State committee would meet in a few days and take a decision.
In November 2015, Gouri had uncharacteristically agreed to be the centre of an elaborate ritual at a temple. In a ‘ naari puja’ ceremony, said to be at the initiative of a local Sangh Parivar outfit, she was worshipped as a goddess. Critics had ridiculed the former Communist idol for giving in to the ritual after being an atheist for several decades.
After being expelled from the CPI(M), she had founded the JSS, joined the UDF and become a minister.
However, in August 2015, the JSS would have all but merged with the CPI(M), if not for a revolt from within the party. Nevertheless, Gouri offered her support to the LDF and, early this year, travelled to the CPI(M) Kerala headquarters. She had asked the CPI(M) leadership that the JSS be allotted four seats, but was totally ignored during seat-sharing talks.
If Gouri amma joins the NDA, it will be a 180-degree swing for one of India’s earliest female Communists who has been an icon of courage, leadership and willpower.