The Congress and the CPI(M) seem to alternate power in the State to keep a third entity out. Every election in Kerala, whether it is to the Lok Sabha or the State Legislature, brings to mind the famous play Ezhu Rathrikal (Seven Nights), directed by Kaladi Gopi in 1963. Ezhu Raathrikal must have been the first play in Malayalam that was based on the lives of the marginalised and oppressed sections of society. The play is set in a street-side bus shelter that is home to a group of beggars, roadside vendors and anti-social elements. The central character of the play is Pazhanam Varkey, a professional beggar. “Pazhanam” is the Malayalam word for “poison.” One, therefore, need not elaborate about his character.
Varkey’s style of begging is unique and that’s the reason behind the success of the character. Even 50 years after its first show, the play and Varkey remain engraved in the minds of theatre buffs in the State. Varkey wears a scapular that has two pendants. One is a crucifix and the other is that of Lord Krishna. When Varkey goes to Christian houses, he wears the scapular in such a way that the crucifix is visible to the people. Whenever he goes to the house of Hindus, he displays the locket with Lord Krishna.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) is the new Varkey of Kerala because of the twin roles played by it in and outside the State. While in Kerala, the CPI (M) considers the Congress to be its main enemy, outside the State, it mingles freely with the latter. The CPI(M) is, perhaps, the best defender of the Congress, especially the Nehru-Gandhi clan, when reports of scams featuring the family members surface in the public domain.
But why is that both parties pretend as if they are at loggerheads and that, too, for the consumption of the public? Since the formation of Kerala in 1956, by merging the old princely States of Travancore, Kochi and parts of the Madras province, the political centrestage has been monopolised by two fronts led by the Congress and the communists. Supporting characters differ, depending on the political wind blowing across the State. But the two fronts, known in modern parlance by the names of the United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the Congress and the Left Democratic Front (LDF), led by the CPI(M), are the central characters.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its previous avatar, the Jan Sangh, were never a force to reckon with in this State that has a split religious demography. The State consists of nearly 51 per cent Hindus, 26 per cent Muslims and 23 per cent Christians. Without active support from the minority communities, no front can win any election in Kerala.
Interestingly, the CPI(M)’s vote bank is the powerful Ezhava community, the society which gave birth to Sree Narayana Guru, the most revolutionary social reformer of the 20th Century. It was his teachings and uncompromising stance that led to the eradication of social evils like untouchability and marginalisation of the oppressed classes in the State. He could inspire the people to agitate for the right to walk along the roads leading to the temples which ultimately culminated in the Temple Entry Proclamation of 1936. At one stage, the communists had hijacked the agitation launched by the Guru and, thus, they could mobilise the Ezhava community under the communist flag.
Over the years, however, the CPI(M) has lost its proletarian image and become a party promoting crony capitalists. It also ensures that the State does not progress an inch, economically or socially. The much-hyped Kerala model of development has ended in a disaster. The last six months have seen more than 40 farmers committing suicide because of the debt trap they have fallen into following crop failure. And the Marxist Government has done nothing to revive the fortunes of either the farmers or the marginal entrepreneurs. Three small entrepreneurs based in Kollam, too, committed suicide because they could not withstand the harassment of their party bosses.
Though there is a change of guard in Thiruvananthapuram every five years, what generally happens is that the CPI(M) and Congress-led fronts alternate between themselves. The two parties do not provide space for a third alternative because they know it well that their relevance will be lost the moment a third party finds space here. Hence, all elections in the State have followed a match-fixing arrangement between the Congress and the Marxists. Though the two may act as if they are arch rivals, both have an unseen umbilical chord between them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi exposed the same while he addressed a public rally at the State capital recently. He said, “It is kusti in Kerala and dosti in New Delhi. The CPI(M) and the Congress are the two faces of the same coin.”
Whenever there is a remote possibility of the BJP winning a seat in the State, the CPI(M) transfers its share of votes en masse to the Congress. This has been happening with active connivance of the local media. P Narayanan, octogenarian journalist, reminiscences how Mathrubhumi, a leading Malayalam daily, violated all media ethics during the Assembly election held in 1960. “There was a big speculation that TN Bharathan, the Jana Sangh candidate from Guruvayur, would romp home because of the excellent work he had done to save the Manathala Temple from miscreants. But on the day of polling, Mathrubhumi came out with a banner headline proclaiming that Jan Sangh supporters would vote for the Congress. This upset the party workers. This has been the style of Kerala media since then,” said Narayanan.
What makes the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Kerala unique is a series of reports about the BJP-led NDA opening its account in this State. The Sabarimala agitation and the CPI(M)’s actions, targetting Hindu places of worship and insulting the acharyas, have hurt Hindus and has resulted in the polarisation of the community. So it is advantage BJP in two or three constituencies of the State. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will definitely win from Wayanad because the LDF has fielded a “decoy” candidate against him as part of a game of match-fixing between the CPI(M) and the Congress. The Marxists want the Congress to win the 2019 Lok Sabha election and that’s about it. Card-holding members of the CPI(M) had the audacity to ask this writer to vote for Benny Behanan, the Congress candidate from Chalakudy. The comrades want to ensure that the Congress’ candidate is elected with a big majority though the CPI(M) has fielded cine actor, Innocent Vareed Thekkethala, in the constituency.
TP Senkumar, former Chief of Kerala police, articulated the Hindu angst: “It is time the majority community, too, gets the same rights and freedom that is enjoyed by the minorities. Sabarimala is the beginning. The next in line is Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the State’s capital.” Kerala is the only State that issues monthly pension to widows belonging to minority communities. Social benefits should be all inclusive.
More than 4,000 people, who took part in the Sabarimala agitation, are still in jail under various charges that are non-bailable offences. KP Sasikala, the frail looking leader of the Hindu United Forum, has 475 criminal cases slapped against her, including that of murder, attempt to murder, stone-pelting and other such criminal offences. These things have happened even as those, who chopped off the right hand of Prof Joseph, are out. This Friday saw the Marxists publicly silencing the chanting of God’s name at a temple in the capital city because the Chief Minister does not like it. Varkey would beg in Kerala displaying one-half of the scapular featuring the crucifix. He can show the other half with Lord Krishna’s pendant while in New Delhi and the rest of India.
Kerala goes to the polls today to elect 20 members to the Lok Sabha.
(The writer is Special Correspondent, The Pioneer)
Writer: Kumar Chellappan
Courtesy: The Pioneer