The question of Minister Thomas Chandy’s resignation has been dominating prime time debates in Kerala.
At a time when the J Sivarajan Solar Commission Report should have naturally hogged the headlines after it was tabled in the Kerala Assembly on November 9, Chandy’s brazenness and his dogged refusal to quit has ensured otherwise.
After the Left Democratic Front (LDF) dragged their feet for almost a month, it was expected that the resignation would finally be announced, as a meeting of the coalition partners on Sunday was to take a call on it. Instead, Chandy has now been given even more time to exit on his own terms.
Most people, including supporters of the CPI (M), are baffled by the turn of events as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seems utterly helpless to force the issue. It has been insinuated that Chandy’s millionaire status is coming in the way of his exit.
But this is clearly part of a pattern now. The progressive dilution of Communist ideology has rendered the present-day CPI (M) into a social democratic party without convictions. The idea is to win at any cost, regardless of the price one may have to pay in the bargain.
Such an attitude has resulted in the fielding or backing of candidates who have absolutely nothing in common with the ideology of the party to win a few seats here and there. It has also resulted in party leaders having links to questionable figures.
Recently, the LDF took out a Jana Jagratha Yatra that got hijacked by the controversies surrounding it. As the march was received at Koduvalli in Calicut, CPI (M) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan got on to a BMW Mini Cooper, which later turned out to be owned by an accused in a gold smuggling case.
In constituencies like Koduvally and Kunnamangalam, strongholds of the UDF ally Muslim League, CPI (M) backed Independents PTA Rahim and Karat Razzak won in 2016. These MLAs were in the news recently when photographs of them posing with gold smuggler Abdul Layis in the Middle East surfaced in the media.
PTA Rahim went on to say that he was related to this smuggler and routinely met him at weddings and functions in his constituency and elsewhere. What is bewildering is that Abdl Layis is a wanted criminal and has been evading the law since 2014 and has a COFEPOSA lookout notice against him. Such a criminal-politician nexus hardly augurs well for the ruling party and the state.
In Malappuram next door, the CPI (M) fielded yet another Independent moneybags candidate PV Anvar in the Congress stronghold of Nilambur, the bastion of veteran Aryadan Muhammed. Anwar won the election but is now embroiled in a case related to his Water-theme park that flouted multiple laws.
If that wasn’t enough, it has now emerged that Anwar and his wife allegedly own more than 200 acres of land in the state that forbids anyone from owning more than 15 acres, post the land reforms initiated by the undivided Communist party back in the day.
Moving beyond Malabar to South Kerala, popular actor Mukesh was fielded in the Kollam seat after the 2014 gamble of fielding actor Innocent against Congress’ PC Chacko proved successful. In that general election, the CPI (M) piggybacked on the Catholic Church candidate Joyce George to win Idukki, where they were traditionally weak. Joyce George is also embroiled in a controversy after it emerged that he and his father allegedly forged documents and connived with revenue officials to buy large tracts of land allotted by the government to the landless.
In Pathanamthitta, news anchor Veena George was fielded as a nominee of another Church denomination, the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. Another news anchor, Nikesh Kumar, son of former-Kannur-strongman-turned-renegade MV Raghavan, was fielded in Azhikode, though he ended up losing a close contest.
The seeds of this revisionism can be traced back to MV Raghavan’s ‘alternative document’ of 1985, though nobody in the party would own up to that today.
MV Raghavan was shown the door in the mid-eighties for defying the party and veteran EMS by presenting a “badal rekha” or alternative document to the CPI (M) state committee in November 1985. Raghavan was ironically accused of “parliamentary revisionism” then. The alternative document was in response to EMS’ sudden realisation that parties like the Muslim League (It had two factions then – one aligned with the UDF and the other with the LDF) and multiple factions of the Kerala Congress were communal.
What prompted Raghavan, the then Kannur CPI (M) district secretary, to challenge EMS was the fact that the CPI (M) had enjoyed power for just six years from 1957-1986. He argued that the party's political line should be that the, "capitalist Congress is the enemy number one; there is nothing wrong in allying with bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties to isolate it". It should be recalled that some of the present-day Marxist leaders can now often be heard repeating this, including the current party state secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
The power struggle between the current Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and former Chief Minister VS Achuthananthan from 2004-2006 and the ensuing sidelining of the VS faction ensured that the party took a capitalist turn (than a social democratic one as envisaged).
It won’t be an exaggeration to define the CPI (M) now as a bourgeois political party as it sits on a business empire that is estimated to be worth more than 10,000 crores and owns and controls TV channels, hospitals, shopping complexes, a flourishing furniture business and even an amusement park. Once again, it was MV Raghavan who pioneered this concept, as he was successful in developing a cooperative model and promoted a hospital and snake park in the early eighties.
What is disappointing, apart from the compromising of ideology to promote businessmen sitting on ill-gotten sums of money, is also the embrace of “development” without much vision and clarity of thought.
The CPI (M) is simply determined to perpetuate the rule of Pinarayi Vijayan beyond 2021 by any means possible. The party is courting even the Kerala Congress (Mani) whom it had called names and campaigned against in 2016, apart from the Janata Dal (United) led by MP Veerendra Kumar.
Whether this will work in the short-term, or will lead to the wheels coming off a la West Bengal, remains to be seen.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.