Who’s afraid of the BJP, or for that matter the Sangh Parivar, in Kerala? It seems the CPM, despite an emphatic victory in the recently held Assembly elections, is wary of the “Hindutva-vadis” eroding its caste base, even in its bastion in Kannur, north Kerala. Nothing else can explain the party’s decision to take out processions on the occasion of Janmashtami for the second consecutive year this time. Last year the CPM surprised even its cadre and fellow travellers when it took out sobha yatras on Sri Krishna Jayanti day, with deities and children dressed as little Krishnas.
This year, even as the Sangh Parivar organised pageants across the state to mark Janmashtami, the CPM modified its stance in its backyard by launching “a campaign against growing communalism” in the country and brought out hundreds of tableaux in about 305 centres in the district, while the BJP took out 450 processions. The idea, according to CPM leaders, was to enlighten people about the relevance of reformist values and make them aware of the threat to the polity of the country under the current BJP leadership. The four-day campaign, “We Are One”, was launched ostensibly to coincide with the birth anniversary of Chattambi Swamikal, a 19th century Hindu social reformer.
The state CPM secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, justified the move, saying the party’s celebrations would go on till 28 August, the birthday of another great Kerala social reformer, Mahatma Ayyankali. In a Facebook post, Kodiyeri wrote that 2016 also happens to be the 100th anniversary of Sree Narayana Guru’s “we have no caste” declaration. “We have organised a set of events as it is the 100th anniversary of Sree Narayana Guru’s declaration. It is a public movement. I will also be part of it and I urge people who believe in democracy to also participate to observe the declaration by the Guru,” he wrote. What Kodiyeri did not write was that the Guru had urged the people “not to speak caste, ask caste and think caste”. What he also conveniently tried to cover up was something Kerala had witnessed only two months ago in the run-up to the Assembly elections—how Kodiyeri and his comrades paid obeisance to various bishops and other religious heads seeking votes. Not to speak of selection of candidates on religious and caste compositions of a particular constituency.
The CPM’s four-day festivities were obviously planned to blunt the year-long celebrations planned by the followers of the Guru, Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangham and its political wing Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, a prominent partner in the NDA. The BJP successfully opened its account in the state Assembly for the first time thanks mainly to its alliance with the BDJS.
CPM’s love for Hindu Gods and Goddesses is its new-found armour. The party didn’t need their assistance earlier in the killing fields of Kannur, which is witness to over 400 political killings over the past four decades. Most of those “martyrs” and their families belong to the CPM or the RSS, which had taken root in the Malabar region even before the formation of the state in 1956. So far the CPM was content to counter the RSS physically. But with the advent of BJP in state politics, things began to change. Many Hindu families who were die-hard Marxist followers began to show their affiliation towards the BJP, posing an electoral threat to the CPM. Finding it difficult to contain the erosion from its Hindu vote bank, the CPM threw its ideology to the winds and started to emulate the Sangh Parivar in every manner. There is a saying in Malayalam which can be roughly translated as “you speak one thing, but do another.” So instead of doing their own homework, the comrades thought it prudent to imitate the BJP while mouthing revolutionary sermons. Hence the party began mega Onam celebrations as well as active participation in temple and other festivals. It started its own yoga classes and recitation meets of epics such as the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita. On the political side, while the killings continued, CPM and the RSS started poaching cadre from each other’s ranks too. While those who went to BJP did not have any Marxism left in them, the case with those who came from the RSS to CPM was different. They brought with them the Hindu ethos and their religious beliefs. Not many eyebrows were raised when during the last election campaign a prominent float came out in Kannur town depicting a scene from the Mahabharata, with current Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan as Arjun and the Kannur district party secretary and prime accused in a couple of murders, P. Jayarajan as Lord Krishna holding the reins of the chariot.
While many sympathisers of the Left may point out that this is not a Marxian way to counter “growing trends in fascism of all hues” in the country, it would be apt to recall what Pinarayi used to say whenever confronted with uncomfortable questions regarding the party’s ideological line. Especially when questioned about its association with shady businessmen and supping with crony capitalists. “You don’t know anything about this party,” he would chide newspersons. That the CPM is bent on interfering with Hindu religious bodies is clear from the recent public spat the Chief Minister had with Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan over certain issues regarding the running of the famous Sabarimala temple. The Board controls over 1,248 temples in the state. The party has started making noises about the right of women entering the temple, which is a highly sensitive subject among the believers.
It was the state BJP president Kummanom Rajasekharan who said: “It is a welcome gesture that the CPM is celebrating Sri Krishna Jayanti. It is a transformation from Marx to Maharishi.” Marx has come a long way in God’s own country.