2024 polls: With one year to go, CPI(M) hits campaign mode in Kerala
The rank and file of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – from politburo to branch members – have begun visiting houses across Kerala as what political observers say is part of preparations for the 2024 general elections.
This is the second time the CPI(M) is taking the house-to-house route after the drubbing they received in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the wake of the Sabarimala women’s entry fiasco.
The blame was put squarely on the ruling party when two women, Kanakadurga and Bindu Ammini, hiked up the hill and entered the temple in January 2019. The BJP and the UDF called it a government-sponsored “pilgrimage”; it was a sentiment shared by a section in the CPI(M) as well, yet Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan managed to defend it well enough.
After the Lok Sabha elections, in which the Left Democratic Front (LDF) was trounced and lost all but one seat in the state, the situation drastically changed. The party’s Central Committee, reluctantly though, acknowledged that the entry of two women into the temple was one of the causes for the disaster.
Among the other main causes for the Left Front’s poor performance, according to the party, was the consolidation of minority votes as a result of Rahul Gandhi’s candidature from Wayanad.
Immediately after the election debacle, the CPI (M) had organised a similar house-to-house campaign to get direct feedback from the voters, an exercise that helped it immensely to win back-to-back elections post-2019. They won most by-elections before coming on top in the Assembly elections, creating a record of beating anti-incumbency.
This time, with the second innings of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government about to complete its second year in office, the party is again going to people with some real political issues to discuss.
Modi government under attack
The Modi government is blamed for undermining the Constitution, according to a handout the party has prepared for mass distribution. It refers to the citizenship amendment act that it says aims to change the secular structure of the country, and a potential shift from a parliamentary democracy to presidential rule. In addition to robbing states of their authority, the Centre is accused of imposing Hindi. Women, Scheduled Castes and tribes are constantly attacked. Privileges are denied to the poor. And all these, the handout says, are being done by those who did not even take part in the independence movement.
“A majority of the people we met during the campaign was welcoming and very accommodative,” former MLA and a party leader from Trissur district, KV Abdulkhader, told The Federal. “As a section of the media is very hostile towards us, we have to explain the political reality of the Centre chocking our state. Beginning at the booth level, we are attempting to reach every household.
“Naturally, we also faced criticism, particularly against the police and over local issues. We were expecting this as the very title of our handout is seeking criticism and advice,” added the leader who was an MLA from Guruvayoor constituency for three consecutive terms.
The Congress too has been heavily criticised for failing to stand up for the Constitution or oppose the Sangh Parivar’s communal agenda. “They lack any viable alternatives to the policies of globalization that are detrimental to the interests of the common people.”
The CPI(M) wants to stabilise the Kerala government and keep the winning streak going. However, the party lacks political clarity when it comes to the overall national situation, observes C K Abdul Aziz, a political observer who was once active in far-Left and minority politics. “It’s a continuation of their failed old policy of ascertaining their relevance in some states. Now with their diminishing significance in national politics, this might not be enough.”
The CPI(M) campaign squads are spending a fair amount of time in the minority pockets in the coastal belt. With some Muslim groups expressing their concerns about the government’s indifference in matters related to the community, the party is keen to address them. The proposed educational reforms which advocate gender neutrality is an area where it faces the wrath of Muslim outfits.
Minorities and Left
According to MV Govindan, the state secretary of the CPI-M, there isn’t a government programme that excludes anyone. “A segment of the Muslim population has made noises about how the curriculum reforms contain remarks that are disparaging to them. The project does not, however, have anything negative to say about religion or God,” he clarified.
The CPI(M) leadership and Govindan in particular feel the minorities abandoned them in the 2019 general elections but ensured their continued rule in the state in 2021, thanks to the anti-CAA protests. The party is, therefore, taking great care to avoid becoming hostile toward them.
The house visits also serve the purpose of informing the public about the LDF government’s welfare and developmental initiatives and the efforts made from various corners to thwart these.The rank and file of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – from politburo to branch members – have begun visiting houses across Kerala as what political observers say is part of preparations for the 2024 general elections.