With less than a week to go for the state assembly polls, there is a renewed surge in favour of the LDF in Kerala. This is indicated not just by the poor turn out at rallies addressed by Sonia Gandhi and A K Antony or the rousing reception LDF campaigners, especially the irrepressible Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan is receiving across the state but by the conspicuous shift in the attitude of sections who had voted against the Left in the last Lok Sabha and Local bodies polls. The realization of the far reaching national and international political implications of a UDF return to power in the state is driving an unexpected late rally by the Left. Whatever may be the outcome of the elections, this political recovery is inspiring for the progressive forces in the state and outside.
A young group of leftist supporters of the iconic intellectual late M N Vijayan in the Kodungallur assembly constituency in central Kerala were in the forefront of the campaign against LDF in the elections to the recent local bodies. On the eve of the Municipal polls they had organized a public seminar in the town on the alleged " Failure of Decentralized planning " to ensure the defeat of the LDF candidates in a traditionally Left wing bastion .Among those they invited to speak were some of the big guns of the rainbow coalition against the CPI(M) in the state that included media owner and break away Janata Dal leader M. P. Veerendra Kumar, Prof Sugathan , editor of a scurrilous anti-CPI(M) fortnightly that claims to back Com Achuthanandan , Sara Joseph , writer and feminist and C P John , another UDF leader. But a sea change has occurred in Kodungallur. The very local activists who were gunning for the CPI(M) only months back are in the forefront of the LDF assembly poll campaign in and around the town.
Civic Chandran, poet and playwright, is no friend of the CPI (M). A product of the Maoist movement and an Emergency victim, he edits a little magazine named Pada Bedham.In an editorial in the latest issue of the magazine, Civic grudgingly accepts that the LDF is the only choice for the Kerala voter in times as hard as these. Dinakaran is a veteran leader of the pro Congress fish workers organization in the state and quite .popular in his community .He had contested and won elections for the UDF in the recent past .He has also called for a vote for the LDF this time in support of the social safety net that the LDF government has provided to the fish workers by way of writing off all pending loans ,increased rice ration at Rs Two a kilo and an improved pension scheme. He has not resigned from the Congress. Nor has his party expelled him.
The religious fundamentalist Jamat e Islami, arch critics of the CPI (M) have followed suit. Under pressure from its members, the state leaders of the network are considering a vote in favour of LDF candidates. They sought out Pinarayi Vijayan , the CPI(M) state secretary to sound him on their thinking on extending unilateral and unconditional to the LDF. The pro UDF media immediately kicked up alleging another sell out of the party line by Pinarayi., the same trick they tried in the Lok Sabha polls following the extension of unilateral and unconditional support to an LDF backed independent by the Mahdani led PDP. But the trick did not work because of the changed electoral mood in the state. The unflappable Pinarayi Vijayan jokingly asked the media if it was a sin to return a salaam from another person.
But why the change of popular mood and the surge for the Left? The realization that at stake in the polls is much more than a choice between the pro people policies of the LDF government and the the neo liberal agenda of the UPA government at the Centre. At its heart are national and international concerns .This was made clear to more and more sections of the voters in the state as the campaign progressed and thanks especially to two star UDF campaigners , Union Defence Minister A K Antony and. E . Ahamed, the Union Minister of State for External Affairs. Antony's claim that NREGA had stopped farmer suicides in the state boomeranged. The Kerala voters knew that farmers in the state were saved from penury and indebtedness due to a slew of measures taken by the LDf government including the urgent constitution of a debt relief commission, write off of all loans to indebted farmers by banks and cooperative institutions and cash compensation for the victims of indebtedness. When the bluff was called, he corrected himself saying what he meant was that NREGA had saved the tribal from starvation death. Another bluff. Against daily reports of spreading tribal unrest in Congress and BJP ruled states, the state's tribal pockets looked a haven of peace in the last five years.
Thus, Antony had few takers in the state this time .Instead, for the first time , voters started contrasting their own welfare with the rest of the country . For instance, the plight of farmers in Kerala and Andhra. The paddy growers in Kerala were getting a record procurement price of Rs 14 a kilo.in Kerala under LDF while the tenant farmers of Andhra were still awaiting their credit cards for agricultural loans. Kerala had covered all tribal areas under NREGA, Andhra was yet to appoint a SC / ST.Commissioner.In Maharashtra, there middle aged farmers of Satara district were taking their own lives as Ajit Pawar was making this year’s budget speech. In sharp contrast, the Kerala farmers were still cheering on state Finance Minister Dr Thomas Issac whose five successive pro-people state budgets has given the LDF the platform to launch itself for a historic second term in office.
If Antony helped the Left by his bluffs, his colleague E.Ahmed helped it by his deafening silence on issues that have troubled anti-imperialist voters in Kerala, including from the Muslim community. He remained mum on the Wiki leaks that had exposed his government as a junior partner of the US. He had no word on the developing Washington- Tel Aviv- New Delhi military axis that has led to India importing more than fifty per cent of all the modern weapons produced by Israel. No qualms on continued collaboration between the ISRO and Mossad that has led to the Israeli spy satellite Telestar being launched from the Indian soil. Certainly the captive party audience or the mainstream media were hardly bothered. But not so among the Muslim community that Ahmed claims to represent. Many among them and other anti-imperialists are seething over revelations from Wikileaks that former minister Mani Shankar Aiyar was removed from the petroleum portfolio after American objections over the aborted Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project. Voters are asking as to how a man purportedly representing their "community" could be at the mercy of the Americans.
It is not simply a case of sections of the farmers and the Muslims shifting to the Left on election eve, a swing as the pollsters say. The women and the elderly are defending their newly won gains. The salaried middle class is also returning to the Left with a vengeance. They are all united in the knowledge that any reverse for the Left in Kerala and West Bengal would be like giving a freehold of the country to the neo liberal elite .United in the knowledge that without the Left retaining its strength in its far flung outposts, all talk of expanding its mass base and building up a feasible national secular democratic alternative to the Congress and the BJP will remain a pipe dream. United in the knowledge that without upholding and highlighting the defence and advance of of the PSUs and the PDS and the social welfare achievements of in state in the last five years there is no earthly chance of the fight against the liberal agenda succeeding in other states or at the centre .United in the knowledge that after such knowledge, there is no forgiveness, as T S Eliot put it.