Communists, by definition, cannot buy the claim that the recent poll rout in Kerala was the result of divine retribution. The CPM and the CPI, however, must wake up to the fact that their postures related to the women’s entry to the Sabarimala shrine have cost them dearly in the Lok Sabha election. The CPM, which leads the state government, is about to go on an extensive house visit drive to regain the people’s confidence after losing all but one seat from Kerala in the general election. State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan himself has launched the people’s interaction drive.
The party and its feeder organisations have realised that extraordinary situations demand extraordinary remedies. On the eve of Kodiyeri’s house visits programme, the CITU general council passed a resolution that clearly acknowledged the Sabarimala factor in the general election fiasco.
The resolution admitted that a “campaign” that painted the state government’s stand in the Sabarimala issue as a move against the faithful has succeeded in lining up a small section of society against the Left Democratic Front and even antagonising a section of the left voters.
The report was vocal about the trade unions’ attempts to make awareness about the issue among the workers. The truth is several CITU members and their family members have voted against the LDF in this election. The CPM state committee has assessed that the defeat could have been avoided if the front ensured all the votes of its members and the members of affiliated organisations.
The CPM devised a people’s interaction programme to reconnect with its constituency in its most acute crisis. Almost all party forums have assessed that the government erred in its handling of the Sabarimala issue. A party meet at Attingal, a traditionally red bastion until this year, was the venue of a strong vent against the chief minister. A few delegates asked if the state committee of the party was helpless in correcting the chief minister.
Nobody disputes the government’s responsibility to implement the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to go to Sabarimala. What is disputed is the way in which the order was sought to be implemented. Several party members have pointed out that the government erred in its implementation of the court order or that the media portrayed the government moves in a bad light.
Whatever the analysis, the CPM lost the votes of a major section of the majority communities this time, thanks to the government’s uncompromising stand on Sabarimala. Any LDF victory in any election hinges on the support of the majority communities that form 55 per cent of the population. Almost 80 per cent of CPM members are from those communities, Muslims constituting 10.39 per cent and Christians 9.66 per cent. The party might have lost the support of the minority sections too. When the central committee of the party exhorts the local units to bring those back to the fold, it is an indirect admission of the fact that they continue to be alienated.
Yet not many leaders, with the evident exception of Tranvancore Devaswom Board president A Padmakumar, were not forthright in arguments that the party stood no chance in the next assembly elections unless it cajoled the faithful back to its fold.
Chief minister's role
Does that mean a volte face by the CPM on the Sabarimala issue? Party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had an interesting explanation to offer. He said that Sabarimala was completely the way it was before the Supreme Court judgment. There were no problems to speak about. Though apparently harmless, observations such as these ultimately point to the role of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. He has not yet changed his immediate reaction to the poll rout. He had refused to acknowledged the Sabarimala factor in the election.
He even persisted with his leadership of a patchwork of reform-minded community associations. Pinarayi has not taken seriously the intra-party argument that the party and the government tried to split public opinion on caste and communal lines. He has kept himself away from the public interaction programme because he was away on ayurveda treatment.
The party will have a tough time patching up with NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair, who seemed to have the last laugh in its spat with LDF convener A Vijayaraghavan. When Vijayaraghavan said the Nair community would not pay heed to the NSS leadership, Sukumaran Nair said he would give a response through the election.
The Supreme Court is yet to pass an order on a review petition on its September 28 order allowing women to enter Sabarimala. If the court dismissed the petitions it would keep alive the issue. Any decision in favour of the petitioners might close the tumultuous chapter for a while.