The cold, clear voice from the outsized loudspeakers is the lone big defence of Left politics this side of the Himalayas. Across evening meetings though, Pinarayi Vijayan’s gatherings seem hardly conscious of history being made or unmade — much like their ancestors who in 1957 quietly voted in a Communist government in Kerala, arguably the first ever electoral endorsement of Marxism. This is the kind of latent motivation the comrade would love.
Vijayan, all of 13 when the state made this left turn, has since been in the thick of the party faith. Quite so because his village Pinarayi is where Kerala’s first Communist party unit came up, a place surrounded on three sides by water. An old collegemate recalls, “Vijayan swims in the left waters but has an amphibian instinct for realpolitik.”
The comrade knows what he is up against. “From a mere coastal strip vulnerable enough to sink in the floods last August and spirited enough to bounce back, the man who led the recovery is on a sub-continental mission.” goes the refrain from the voluble announcers in party vehicles.
Forget the metaphor, the magnitude is real. It is a battle for national relevance and no less a prequel to Kerala’s assembly election in 2021. The country’s only Marxist CM, Vijayan has to seek a successive term from these very voters who habitually vote out incumbent coalitions. If there is anything worse than the electoral mood swing between two neat fronts, there is a third within spoiling distance – the BJP. The party that rules New Delhi is at its ambitious best here. In short, Vijayan is campaigning for two elections.
Electoral Kerala has rarely witnessed this kind of hedging. Within the state’s pool of 20 Lok Sabha seats, TV pollsters to wayside analysts, often no less skilled, have been talking about shifting sands in seat after seat, segment after segment. And now on the last lap, across seats.
At Vadakara, even as Vijayan is asking voters to better their best reward of 18 out of 20 seats in 2004, a barefoot activist of ally NCP whispers about Congress cross voting for BJP to defeat the local Left veteran P Jayarajan, “a swap deal for BJP vote transfer in Thiruvananthapuram to help out Sashi Tharoor”.
Can portable votes be so logistically managed?
Never mind. There is enough fluidity out in the open. The Indian National League, which broke off from the Congress-led UDF partner Indian Union Muslim League in 1994, is an open ally of the Left and its speaker in Panur quotes the Bhagawad Gita copiously to suggest that a true Hindu as much as a practising Muslim can comfortably vote Left. Sanskrit is the last language you expect from the Left podium. More common is English, in which non-Malayali party heavyweights such as Sitaram Yechury and the Malayalam-knowing Prakash Karat hold forth.
Vijayan speaks at a venue for about 40 minutes in staid Malayalam with hardly an English word. Not a word out of place. Not a thought out of line. When you begin to miss that sudden sting flying out of orbit, comes the retort to Rahul’s Gandhigiri, “He can keep his kindness. He will discover Wayanad and Kerala after the polls.” The accent is on the big picture — Jews, Muslims, Germany, Kashmir, Constitution, Sakshi Maharaj, Amit Shah, and the “Congressmen turning gaurakshaks”.
At Meppayur in Vadakara, the dutiful crowd listens shielding itself from the evening sun with folded newspapers. Copies of a four-page eveninger are being given away. People gratefully pick it up and cup it into paper hats. No one even reads the masthead. In fully literate Kerala, is this literacy fatigue, news fatigue, political fatigue? A bunch of construction workers from Kishanganj, Bihar, sit absorbed through the Pinarayi speech. “No, we haven’t picked up much Malayalam but we know he is on the same side as our Lalu Prasad.”
Click here for more election news
The comrade’s national campaign might well be working.