A veteran Communist leader and critic of right-wing groups was shot along with his wife in central India on Monday morning as they were out for a stroll, the police said.
The politician, Govind Pansare, 81, was in critical but stable condition after doctors operated to remove a bullet from his body, said Ankit Goel, a police official from Kolhapur, where Mr. Pansare lives. His wife, Uma Pansare, was less seriously wounded, Mr. Goel said.
It was unclear whether Mr. Pansare’s political views and speeches were the reason for the attack, Mr. Goel said.
“Whether this was politically motivated, whether any reactionaries or any other lobby was involved, we are going to explore all angles into who the culprits could be,” Mr. Goel said.
Political assassinations are not uncommon in India, where the police have killed hundreds of people in recent years in staged shootouts and a top Communist leader admitted several years ago that his party had on occasion brutally eliminated its rivals. “We have shot, stabbed and beaten them to death,” the leader, M. M. Mani, said in 2012.
Even the president of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah, has been accused of helping to stage at least two assassinations. But despite considerable evidence against him, the accusations were recently dismissed by a special court.
On Monday, Mr. Pansare’s shooting near his home was being likened to the murder in 2013 of the rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar in nearby Pune. Dr. Dabholkar’s life mission had been to unmask religious charlatans. He was gunned down as he walked on a bridge near where he lived.
B. G. Kolsepatil, a friend of Mr. Pansare’s for 40 years and a former Bombay High Court judge, said in a telephone interview that he was on his way to meet Mr. Pansare to discuss a speech Mr. Pansare was about to give when the attack occurred.
“We were to thrash out details of his speech, which would have, yet again, spoken against Brahminism and Hindutva forces in the state and country,” Mr. Kolsepatil said, referring to right-wing forces against whom Mr. Pansare has spent his life agitating. “I am very sure it is one from the reactionary groups in the state who shot him. They cannot fight us in thought. They only know how to kill.”
Kolhapur has long been known as a progressive enclave where some of the first policies to provide job quotas for lower-caste people were enacted. But Communism, once a potent political force in India, has declined substantially in influence in recent years.