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Decline and fall of the Kerala Left

Tinkering is not enough - the Left in Kerala may have to do something close to reinventing itself...

Written by Rajeev P I |
May 18, 2009 12:30:41 am

Tinkering is not enough— the Left in Kerala may have to do something close to reinventing itself,to survive its near-decimation this Lok Sabha poll. It is no longer just its interminable inner contradictions,or its warlords locked in turf battles,that it needs to deal with. The Left’s very fundamentals were on the dissection table this poll.

It is no coincidence that this followed an inevitable corrosion,eating through almost the entire Left edifice in the state for sometime now. Never before was the Kerala CPM and the Left Front jolted so hard by inner dissent,never had it suffered a crippling credibility crisis of the kind it now faces. The CPI,which was blanked out this poll, is in immediate danger of ceasing to be a national party; the Janata Dal (U) has withdrawn its lone minister from the Left cabinet and technically walked out of the Left camp. The miffed RSP had famously used its clout this poll to get back at Big Brother — and the ragtag bunch at the rump are also far from amused.

The Left had seldom balked at adroit political-ideological somersaults that the CPM prescribed from time to time,right from when politics in Kerala came to be irreversibly divided between the two coalitions; one it led and the other,the Congress. Only,this time it went overboard.

The comic relief it offered apart,the spectacle of the secular Left wagon being pulled this poll by the likes of terror-accused Abdul Nasser Madhani (who is still being probed for other terror links even after his acquittal from the Coimbatore serial blasts case) and his radical PDP,renegade BJP leader Raman Pillai and his Janapaksham and an assortment of radical-conservative outfits,was enough to drive still deeper fissures in the traditional Left fortresses.

The first two,in particular: the CPM riding with Madhani while its embarrassed partners vocally disowned him,and General Secretary Prakash Karat struggling to deny any truck with him while his state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan openly shared campaign stage with the same man,backfired badly. A substantial chunk of agonised VS Achuthanandan loyalists and hardliners apart,it also substantially eroded a big traditional Left bank: Lower middle class Hindus,chiefly the Ezhavas and  Nairs,who had stood by the Left in too many parts. Steamrolling over anxieties even among the core cadre over open dalliance with a senior saffron leader who showed no signs of gravitating from Right to Left,was no solution,either.

All of it had further catalysed the barely covert inner polarisation that the Pinarayi Vijayan-VS Achuthanandan turf war in the CPM,into near-open dissidence. Even in Kannur,the CPM’s best fortress where the party itself was born; in Vatakara,its bastion; in Kozhikode,Palakkad and elsewhere. The Left rout in all these constituencies this poll,(it barely scraped through in Palakkad) were no big surprise.

If the Left could carry a good chunk of the fragmented Christian and Muslim sections in the last Lok sabha and Assembly polls,it largely failed this time. Christian sections,egged on by an unceasing barrage of pastoral letters read out in churches all over after the Left Government moves on every issue that could pinch it from running of self-financing colleges to “subverting of church bodies”,  moved perceptibly to the Congress-led camp. Similarly,too many Muslim bodies,especially in north Kerala,had enough peeves of their own to move away too,and Madhani’s image and his rabble-rousing for the Left only made them drift farther.

Scarecely any high moral ground remains for the Left to attempt a traditional credibility restoration exercise. The CPM getting the state advocate general it appointed to recommend to its own government to deny the CBI permission to prosecute its own state secretary in a Rs 89 crore power scam — while its own chief minister pushed for it behind the curtain — was only the latest in a series of messy corruption charges it had landed itself in. That the state party apparatus in Vijayan’s complete control had even sought Achuthanandan’s resignation for refusing to bail him out,hardly helped shore up its crumbling image.

What compounds the Left predicament is the clearly open divisions now among its partners,with no patch-up in sight,after the seat sharing row this time. The CPI nearly walked out over the bigger partner taking away its Ponnani seat,the Janata Dal (U) withdrew its minister after the CPM relieved its top state honcho of the Kozhikode seat,its only one;  and the RSP’s rancour translated into the Left losing the Kollam seat after the CPM  muscled its way into taking it away from it

With apologies to Marx,the state may not yet be withering away — but the Left in Kerala may. 

rajeev.pi@expressindia.com

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