Will CPM's ambitions in Karnataka derail Pinarayi Vijayan's SilverLine hopes?

The sickle-and-hammer sigil of the CPM.
The sickle-and-hammer sigil of the CPM.

Bengaluru: Though labelled as an attempt to inject new life into the controversy-ridden SilverLine rail corridor project, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's visit to Karnataka, after a gap of five long years, assumes greater significance is one is to read the rest of his schedule than the marquee meeting with his Karnataka counterpart Basavaraj Bommai.

Vijayan is also slated to visit Bagepalli, a small town in Chikballapur district near the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border, 100 kilometres north of Bangalore and very far away from Kerala.

Here, Vijayan is slated to give a public address, his first on Karnataka soil, and lead a small rally.

The Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM), of which Vijayan is an instrumental figure, had done fairly well here in the last election.

Though it lost the seat to Congress (65,155), it pooled nearly one-third of the total votes cast (51,288 of 1,63,117).

It even boasted 12x times the vote that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won.

This, no doubt, has imbibed the party with the hope that it can once again exert influence in Bagepalli ahead of the Assembly elections next year.

After all, it is here, in Bagepalli, that party founder and supremo AK Gopalan led land struggle movements in the 1970s.

The sickle-and-hammer sigil is no stranger to the region. The CPM Karnataka State Committee said that roughly 10,000 will join the rally, including IT professionals from Bengaluru.

With this, the party is likely setting the stage to take BJP's lotus head-on in the coming elections.

However, this agenda is likely to impair Vijayan's more-urgent objectives of the trip - to save SilverLine, the ambitious rail-corridor project which his government in Kerala is peddling before its people and the Centre.

The talks with Bommai was to glean the possibility of extending the proposed project, envisaged to connect both ends of Kerala, past the state's borders into Karnataka's Mangaluru.

By disguising it as an inter-state developmental project, one that benefits a BJP-ruling state, Vijayan was likely hoping to win the Centre's nod as fast as possible.

Though it is reported that the Karnataka government has expressed interest to mull over the details, CPM's party ambitions in Karnataka - as is seen in Bagepalli - is likely to throw a wrench into the process.

The Centre was already of the opinion that there are more viable options than a rail-corridor project. But with interest for an inter-state high-speed corridor brewing in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, Vijayan's SilverLine ambitions can still chug on, at least for now.

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