Contrary views expressed by two Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders over the party’s proposed Krishna Jayanti celebrations in Kerala indicate a tussle within the party in recognizing the BJP as a force to contend with.
On Monday, the Kerala media reported that the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which is feeling the pinch of the disillusionment of its cadre, will celebrate Sri Krishna Jayanthi with processions in the state. The party has reportedly alerted its local committees to organize rallies with children dressed as Lord Krishna.
Former state home minister and CPI (M) leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, however, denied any such move and blamed the media for spinning fiction. “We have no plans of celebrating Sri Krishna Jayanti, this is the creation of a Congress obsessed media. We feel no need to conduct such an event as the CPI (M) does not feel threatened by the BJP. The media is spinning stories that our cadres are leaving to the BJP,” he told The News Minute.
For a party that has stayed away from ‘God’ and ‘religion’, the otherwise largely ‘rationalist’ CPI (M)’s decision to celebrate Sri Krishna Jayanthi is being seen as a counter to a similar procession that will be organized by the Sangh Parivar on October 5.
Two recent developments have led the CPI (M) down this unfamiliar path.
The surge in BJP’s vote share in the Aruvikkara by-polls last month has panicked the Left to no small extent. Simultaneously, Ezhava community leader Velapalli Natesan’s statement suggesting that SNDP (the outfit he leads), would support the BJP has also triggered a major worry.
“The communalisation of the state is undeniable. The UDF government is allowing the violence and communalisation to happen as they believe this will benefit them,” says Alapuzha MLA Thomas Issac. In the CPI (M)’s view, the chain of political violence and polarization witnessed in many districts of Kerala could benefit the Congress more than any other party.
Issac says the call to celebrate Sri Krishna Jayanthi was needed to counter the RSS’ tactics of using communalism as a political tool. “We have told local committees, but we also see it as an opportunity to encourage children's talents.” (The procession will have children dressed up as Lord Krishna.)
“Parents love to see their kids dressed like Lord Krishna, we are only giving them an opportunity to do it, and there Is nothing wrong in that. Some local committees in Kannur are encouraging it, there is nothing wrong. We have told those local committees there is nothing wrong in it. When the BJP used such occasions to further their communal agenda, we need to counter it.”
“The CPI (M) views this as a very secular move, an alternative to counter BJP’s propaganda. This is not religious or communal. The UDF is indirectly supporting the BJP to suppress us, and that is their political propaganda.”
He was candid enough to admit that the BJP’s surge was not just a far-fetched claim anymore. “The BJP’s claim that it will open its account during the 2016 polls seems genuine now. And we need to stop that growth.”
The decision also comes in the wake of cadre deserting the party. Malayala Manorama had reported that around 25,000 cadres had left the CPI (M) recently and many of those could have even joined the BJP.
The Hindu’s Varghese K George has written in an op-ed that the CPI (M) is a “victim of its successes in the state”. Analysing the slow turn of red to saffron in the state, the author says that the right has gained with the rise in Hindu religiosity, “on the lines of, and partly in reaction to, the Christian and Muslim revivalist movements that accompanied the remittance-fuelled affluence of these two communities”.
While leaders like Issac and others do recognize the threat from a rising Sangh, there is also a large section of the CPI (M) that is clinging on to past glory, blind to the changed ambitions and expectations of its cadre. Better jobs, good infrastructure, less obstructionalism and even establishing a religious identity are just some of the items on the wish list.
Time will tell whether the CPI (M)’s aping of the Sangh Parivar’s tactics in a bid to stay relevant will pay off and help the party re-invent its identity in Kerala.
(An extra quote from Thomas Issac's interview has been added as an update).