The worst crime of the Left in Kerala was to give a fillip to the Islamic fundamentalists

Looking for the Phoenix Moment of the Indian Left Turning Gods Own Country into ashesImages: CPIM
Voices Politics Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 13:18

Read Part 1 here

For a southerner, Kerala is close geographically, and there has been a steady cultural exchange for a long time. So, unlike in the case of West Bengal, one doesn’t miss out much on the developments there.

Praful Bidwai informs us that technically Kerala was not the first subnational region to vote a communist party to power. The ‘credit’ goes to the tiny Italian principality of San Marino, with a population of 33,000. Still the 1957 triumph in a region with a much larger population has been a matter of pride.

Interesting the Communist-Socialist San Marino alliance that had won in 1945 continued in office till 1957. The Kerala success too turned into ashes quickly, thanks to the machinations of the ruling Congress and various reactionary forces, but one had realized the potential in democracy. Subsequently power kept changing hands, but the relatively admirable human development indices, the low-cost healthcare and a high level of literacy particularly, as also the enduring success of the land reforms, were all attributed to the Left’s stewardship.

But the idyll was being torn asunder, and one came to know about it not from newspaper reports, but from that famous I.V.  Sasi film of the eighties, Eenadu. The nokku kooli and the role of the Gulf money were all portrayed. Then the Silent Valley controversy and the pathetic attempts by the Left to dub all environmentalists as anti-development, falling agricultural production, increasing joblessness and the strident protests by the tribals on various counts, all cast an ominous shadow on what we thought were unrivaled accomplishments.

C K Janu, once a fiery leader of the tribals, eventually ended up as an ally of the BJP, showing the level of alienation. It would not be wrong to say that she was driven to such extremes only because of the continued obduracy of the CPM leadership. She had actually done a stint in the party.

Thuggery was also becoming rampant. A Tamil manager of a tourist resort confided, almost in whispers, “Don’t have any romantic notions of these comrades, sir. They are as bad as our DMK and AIADMK guys, extorting money at will. You resist at great risk to your establishment, sometimes even to your life.”

The never-ending Kannur clashes between the RSS and the CPM might fall into a different category altogether, both sides equally guilty, but Chandrasekaran’s murder and other outrages went to show that the CPM under Pinariyi Vijayan was fast becoming a roguish force, with the high command being unable to do anything to rein them in.

Pinarayi’s rival, Achuthanandan, is no saint either. He too could play dirty politics on various planes. He sought to make Mullaperiyar a life-and-death issue - it didn’t occur to him that it was unacceptable for a communist party to whip up parochial sentiments, whatever the provocation. During one phase of the agitation, it was a CPM troupe that sought to unleash hysteria, raising visions of Armageddon.

But easily the worst crime of the Left in Kerala was to give a fillip to the Islamic fundamentalists. Malappuram was carved out by none other than the redoubtable EMS himself. Quite late in the day, he said he regretted the alliance with the Muslim League and swore never again, but wisdom didn’t last long. They kept joining hands with some Muslim outfit or other, giving one specious excuse after another. Even the latest front supported the Indian National League, though it failed to win any seat.

None other than Saeed Naqvi, a celebrated Muslim journalist, had expressed his unease over the creeping fundamentalism thanks to Malappuram. Alliance with the Left didn’t mellow these interest groups. If anything, mainstream parties had to bend over backwards to appease them. Look at this poster put up by the INL in Tamil Nadu demanding death sentence for gays. No condemnation at all.

From there to Abdullah, “a man now believed to occupy a key position in a shadowy network of recruiters routing Indian jihad volunteers to the Islamic State in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province,” is not a big step after all.

Noted Malayalam writer Paul Zacharia said with regret, “The party was one of the prime movers of social change. It triggered progressive forces in literature, theatre, music and the arts. It revolutionised the feudal caste and class equations, gave negotiating power to agricultural and industrial workers, initiated land reforms and actually functioned as an agent of enlightenment.

That is, till the Stalinist model was foisted on the party and it became a power-hunting robot in the hands of gurus like EMS. With the split in 1964, the CPM's Stalinist transformation was complete.”

There was no saving the party from degeneration thereafter -  with Pinarayi now installed as the Chief Minister, one has to wait and see what next.

In Tripura, in the North East, the CPM has been in power for seven terms now. But it is a very small enclave and doesn’t have much of an eddy effect. Still a relatively high level of literacy and certainly responsible governance, have earned the party considerable goodwill. There were the Samar Acharjees too, still the rot hasn’t gone too deep.


Praful Bidwai laments that the CPM has failed to build on the advantages of a semi-tribal society, so that the transition to a post-capitalist order can be swift. But none in the CPM bothers to think that far.

Elsewhere in the country, the CPM has had little impact, happily joining hands with most retrograde forces during the elections. Despite a strong textile sector till recently, it could not develop roots in Maharashtra.

Just as Praful Bidwai, this series too focuses essentially on the CPM, as the CPI is too small, too weak, even too discredited to be taken seriously. There is this Tha Pandian in the Tamil Nadu unit of the party who prides himself in being Jayalalithaa’s flunkey-in-chief. That man served two terms as state secretary and the incumbent too is her chela.

The armed Maoists might serve to illustrate the predatory nature of the ruling classes as also the brutalities of the Indian state, but they themselves are hard-boiled militants, with little regard for the lives of the civilians. And they are unlikely to be able to capture power even over a small slice of territory.

Thus, when the track record isn’t too very enviable, why should the Left warrant any discussion at all? Read part 3 here.

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.

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