Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The CPM Strategy Backfiring in Kerala Election: Notes from the campaign scene

AT THE initial stage of the present election process to the 15th Lok Sabha, on March 24, I had posted the following note in a discussion forum raising some of my doubts. I feel, three weeks into the campaign, it is time now to rethink the same issue once again:

A few days ago Dr. Santhakumar, an economist, had said he was witnessing some positive trends in Kerala's politics in this election. He appeared to have given much stress to the rise of new communal forces and their entry to left front, while parties like CPI, Janata Dal, and RSP were taking a beating.

I am unable to see a positive trend in this development, but I do see the current developments as the beginning of the end of the Left and Democratic Front in Kerala. It is more than 30 years old and it cannot withstand the shifting sands of politics in Kerla today. Hence a realignment of forces is natural and even to be welcomed.

My questions are as follows:

1. When Abdunnaser Madani and his PDP come to the centre stage in left politics, what would be the impact on traditional Hindu voters in the CPM? They are not a force to be ignored because in 1987 we know it was this segment which proved decisive in the left victory. It is also a fact that this lower middle class people, mainly Ezhavas and Nairs, etc, are a strong base for CPM in most places.

2. Now that Raman Pillai's Jana Paksham has joined forces with CPM, what impact they will have on the traditional left supporters? Have they ever openly rejected their past, the violent Hindutva politics that they practiced?

3. What impact the CPM dissidents will have in this election? I personally feel that in Vatakara, Kozhikode and Palakkad, where they have strong candidates, they will win decisive number of votes.

4. Is it time for the left forces to abandon their traditional secular and leftist image and don a right-wing, communal conglomerate image, something which they always accused of UDF in the past? Is the secular politics so discredited in our society that even the left can safely abandon its strong points of the past?

These points were made three weeks ago. Now the situation seems to be a bit more clear. And what do we see now?

I feel the CPM strategy of unscrupulous alliance with communal forces of both the Hindu and Islamic variety has backfired. Two days ago, I saw Prakash Karat, CPM general secretary, making it clear that there is no alliance with Madani and what he was given to understand by the State CPM secretary was that the PDP would carry out their campaign separately. It seems either the CPM has changed its strategy of open combined campaign which Pinarayi inaugurated in Ponnani or that the CPM general secretary is distancing himself from what his state counterpart did here.

The second aspect is that there is a very clear consolidation of Muslim votes in the north, especially since the CPM has been trying to cut into the Muslim vote base in Malappuram and Ponnnani. Right now it appears the IUML will win not only Ponnani, but could re-capture Malappuram (earlier Mnajeri) which the CPM had won in 2004.

The third point is is, the rebel CPM is proving to a force to reckon with. Their campaign in Vatakara, Kozhikode and Palakkad, etc, is very effective and they threaten to seriously cut into the vote base of CPM. I hear reports and personal comments from a number of comrades who are reluctant to vote for the party this time and watching the campaign scene, it is evident the CPM cadres are not yet active in the field.

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