The party has now decided to take part in religious festivals and temple activities.



New Delhi: It may be coincidental, but the Kerala CPM chose Janmashtami day to woo back the faithful (read Sabarimala devotees) by saying that the party was never against them. The rethink, of course, comes in the wake of the drubbing the party got in the last general elections.

“Party cardholders have a code of conduct. But we are not going to impose it on the masses. Party workers can take part in religious activities. The CPM is not against the faithful. The party has not banned workers from going to temple or church. There have, however, been attempts from certain corners to create such an impression. On the Sabarimala issue, the party’s critics were able to mislead a section of people,” said party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, briefing the media after a six-day marathon session of the state committee of the party.

As usual, the party has listed a litany of mistakes, dating back from the party plenum held six years back in Palakkad in Kerala, for the setback in the May elections. Earlier, the party used to insist that its stance, especially in the case of Sabarimala, cannot be traded for a handful of votes. But now the stark realisation has come that it is the votes that count and not particularly entry of young women into the Ayyappa shrine. The hypocrisy of the party was all to be seen. Not a single member of the state committee dared to openly say that the decision of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to hastily implement the Supreme Court ruling to allow entry of women of all ages into the temple, hoping to reap a huge electoral harvest, that had cost the party so dearly. In that way, the party has ensured that Vijayan remains the supreme leader of the party and the government. In fact members were vying with each other in showering praise of the CM for his “splendid work”.

In another departure from the past, the CPM has admitted that the BJP has grown in strength in the state and is now a threat to both the communists and the Congress. But again there was not a word that Pinarayi Vijayan was singularly responsible for the growth of Sangh Parivar in the state, though many BJP leaders admit to it in private conversations. That the BJP had failed to capitalise on the Sabarimala imbroglio is something which that the party has to take stock of. As for CPM, the party has now decided to take part in religious festivals and temple activities more vigorously. Two years back, the party had experimented with taking out shobha yatras on Krishna Jayanthi day in party stronghold in Kannur. It did abandon that this time around. However, there is no doubt that peddling of soft Hindutva is very much on party’s agenda. Kodiyeri said party workers should not shy away from taking part in temple festivities (mind you, not church or mosque) as a rule. “In fact, they should help in such activities. The CPM’s stance on belief-related matters has been misconstrued. Majority of our party followers are believers. The CPM has always tried to protect the beliefs of the faithful,” the party secretary said. One thing was still not clear. Which of the believers the party is going to support? Those who believe in the entry of women to Sabarimala or those who oppose it? For the time being, the party feels the government should not indulge in any additional effort to facilitate entry of young women into Sabarimala temple. “Protect sentiments of devotees” seems to be the new revolutionary slogan passed onto the cadre.

The desperation on the part of state CPM is understandable. Six by-elections to the Assembly are due in three months’ time. If the party cannot at least win half of them, then there will not be much hope of it coming back to power for the next five years, a probability that scares the party to the bones. CPM’s only hope is in the Opposition. In the present context, the combined opposition of the Congress and the BJP is capable of voting the Left Front back to power, perhaps minus Pinarayi Vijayan.

The Congress leaders, especially Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, seem to have not realised that the people of the state voted for the Congress out of their fear of the BJP leadership and perhaps against the arrogant rule of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The BJP, on the other hand, exposed itself by baring its electoral ambitions too early during the Sabarimala agitation. The people saw through the game and feared that once in power BJP would abandon Sabarimala, which has now proved right. Many BJP leaders admit openly that the party is now rudderless in the state. Now with CPM eager to take over temple affairs, the scope has narrowed for the BJP. Congress will disintegrate on its own once the tussle for the post of Chief Minister begins between Chennithala and Oommen Chandy, who is now jobless, with Andhra Pradesh, of which he is in charge, gone for good. Come 2021, a tough decision awaits voters in Kerala. Between the devil and the deep sea seems to be a pale shadow of what the reality is.