After poll drubbing, CPI(M) in Kerala starts campaign to regain lost ground
The ruling CPI (M) in Kerala has begun a campaign to win back its support base in its last bastion after an unsatisfactory performance in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha elections. The party has asked its cadres to begin a mass contact programme and reach out to the common man, who party leaders feel, have let down the proletarian party. Out of a total of 20 LS seats the party could win only one seat.
After a three-day brain-storming session, the party central committee found that a disconnect of the cadres with steadfast supporters like the youth, working class and minority had done the damage. It also found that the anger of the Sabarimala devotees’ was another catalyst for the drubbing.
The hurry with which the state government implemented the Supreme Court’s verdict that allowed women of all ages at the temple had angered a large number of devotees, the party has had to admit finally. But Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan counters it saying if the temple was the cause then the BJP would have benefitted. But party insiders say it is only the CM’s “meek face-saving” theory. Though the central committee asked the party to assuage the feelings of devotees, the party is yet to work out how it will do so.
Staring at a bleak future, the party has asked cadres to participate in social and humanitarian activities to win back the masses and erase its “violent branding” by its opponents. Party leaders have put up a brave face saying the setback was temporary and they would bounce back. But they admit a serious course correction is needed to put it back in the reckoning. What really worries the CPI (M) is that saffron forces are spreading their wings like never before after making inroads in West Bengal and Odisha. The BJP has also made it clear that Kerala tops its agenda now.
“We admit there is a decline in Communist values. From Politburo members to the area committee we have to correct ourselves. We will go to the people and ask them to correct us. We will not speak much, let the people talk. We have to win their hearts again,” said Politburo member M A Baby adding from July 22 to July 28 the party will go all out to meet people. He said the party assessment about the prevailing mood had gone terribly wrong in Kerala and all efforts will be needed to correct it.
“Worldwide right wing forces are surging and it has also influenced India. We failed to show something different in a socialistic set-up. So it is time for cadres to sit up and think and involve in livelihood issues of the masses,” said Baby adding Kerala being the cradle of secularism, Left forces will remain a key player. He said in parliamentary democracy the party had suffered a dent but among the working class and youth, the Left ideology was still strong.
Party watchers do say though the Left shifted gear from its steadfast ideological demure, it has to reinvent itself to be in the reckoning. They feel the party is going through an organizational and ideological churning and it needs a big surgery rather than cosmetic changes for its existence.
“The Left is still caught in mundane rhetoric and it has nothing new to offer. It has to negotiate with complex realities of India rather than blindly following its erstwhile comrades. It got many opportunities but it failed to grab them,” said C P John, a former Left ideologue and political analyst, adding that Left parties decay was in the offing. But he said unlike West Bengal, in Kerala the Left will remain for some time thanks to its soft power-- service organizations and institutions built by it. In Kerala, the party runs IT firms, super specialty hospitals, amusement parks, banks and industrial units.
“It is too early to dismiss the Left. The CPI (M) had introduced many correctional measures in Coimbatore party meet and most of them remain only on paper. The party leadership will have to intervene effectively to check violent inhibitions of its cadres also,” said senior journalist N K Ravindran adding the twin murders of Youth Congress activists in Kasarkode just two months before elections had dented the party’s prospects badly. Though the party had distanced itself from it, all those arrested were party workers.
“More than anyone else we suffered badly in recurring political violence. But right wing forces and a section of the media always put the blame on us. We have taken strict action against erring cadres and warned them not to indulge in any sort of violence. It has started reflecting on the ground,” said Baby. But BJP leaders say they were not allowed to function in many areas where the party rules the roost. “The CPI (M)’s ideological gurus will say many things but it is a fact that muscle power is still the guiding force of the party,” said BJP general secretary K Surendran.
He asked how party leaders would approach the masses to instill a Communist way of life when the party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnna’s son was involved in an alleged rape case. When he offered to quit the party, the central leadership prevented him saying he was not responsible for his son’s “wrong doings,” he said. “In West Bengal, the party is running after the Congress but in Kerala it considers the party the biggest enemy,” said Congress leader K Muraleedharan adding the CPI (M) will have to do away with its “double standards”.