Saturday, March 22, 2008

Keralite: Left High and Dry

By Sunil K Poolani

On a recent visit to Kerala, in south India, after some years, one was baffled to see the change in the political zeitgeist. The once-politically vibrant Keralite has not only become unrepentantly indifferent but no longer shares any excitement about the chameleon-type political parties — across spectrums. The reason: the political parties’ sheer lack of ideology.

Even before the final formation of the Kerala state, the then political parties, whether the Indian National Congress or the undivided Communist Party, had individual identities, say nationalism or class struggle — reasons that ensured them a loyal mass support.

People’s commitment to ideological polity was one of the reasons why Keralites preferred to elect communists through the ballot box, a maiden event in world history. Also, some sort of commitment from the opposite camp led to Vimochana Samaram, or liberation struggle, which led to the ouster of the first communist government.

Coupled with commitment, rich general awareness and high literacy levels made Kerala a role model, an example of how polity can influence and affect common life; for a Keralite, ideological politics was something more important than basic amenities. The result, though of no consequence in the long run, was revolutionary: the Land Reforms Act, high education and literacy, low death rates and above all public awareness.

Now, decreasing value politics, dirty alliances and the redundancy of the very existence of political parties have led to a situation where educated Kerala electorate, who have enough time to spare at their hands thanks to chronic unemployment and reluctance to do manual labour, are left ideologically abandoned.

Kerala does have the history of not consequently electing a government — whether it is the United Democratic Front (UDF) or the Left Democratic Front (LDF). But that definitely is not the reason why the electorate would prefer the UDF over the LDF, or vice versa. The reason is that more Keralites do not find any reason why a party with a philosophy like communism, which is almost non-existent worldwide after the effete putsch in the erstwhile Soviet Union, should be trusted. The mass realisation is that ‘communism’ may have been of some contribution to the Kerala psyche and identity, but it did more harm than good: destroyed economy, reduced employment opportunities, shut industries down, encouraged militant trade unionism and moreover left a huge void of individual idleness which is difficult to be filled in decades to come.

And in Kerala’s case, after the death of AK Gopalan, Krishna Pillai and EMS Namboodiripad, there was hardly a mass communist leader whom the janata could look up to. All they had was E K Nayanar, the Kerala counterpart of Laloo Prasad Yadav, whose ‘charm’ even the present LDF chief minister, V S Achudanandan, does not have.

That doesn’t mean the UDF is above suspicion. If at all the Congress-led front came to power it was either due to the disenchantment towards the communists, or, mainly, because the ideology-lacking UDF meant business — whichever way one takes it. People, of course, realise that the Congress in Kerala, to live up to the name it has carved elsewhere, has institutionalised corruption and if elected they’d repeat what they were always good at: enjoying the fruits of power. Antony, as many claim, might have ensured probity in his own life, but, well, less said the better of the rest of the clan in his party.

And that leaves with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Though LK Advani was always optimistic of opening an account in every assembly and Lok Sabha polls, it’s easier said than done. Here, too, ideology rules: for an ordinary Keralite, Lord Ram is an alien, and Ayodhya is as alien a place as Antartica. Fanaticism can never run in this land — created, as epics say, by Parasuram, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the one before Ram — and obsessed nationalism, which the BJP is trying to inculcate among the masses, is not something Keralites followed even in the time of the Independence Movement.
-- Mint / Oman Tribune

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