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Kerala: Old politics, new allies

Kerala: Old politics, new allies

Author: VR Jayaraj
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 22, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/164147/Kerala-Old-politics-new-allies.html

The seat-sharing arrangement has turned into a multi-pronged war in the CPI(M)-led LDF in Kerala as the CPI(M) is striking alliances with organisations and people of questionable integrity and ignoring the interests of its time-tested allies.

The multi-pronged war in Kerala's CPI(M)-led LDF over seat-sharing formula and ethics is not just a matter of Marxist hegemony over allies. There is more than what meet the eyes, indeed.

After decades of secular evolution, much of which was based on BJP-baiting and objections to the Congress's affinity for the Muslim vote-bank, the Marxists in Kerala are now at a stage where they are forging an alliance with forces that their own ancestors had sent to prison for indulging in acts of terror. Developments in Kerala, which claims to be the most politically conscious province in India, for the past two weeks have proved that the Marxists are ready to break even long-standing relations with their time-tested allies for the sake of a new friendship with people and forces who have never been able to shake off their image of terror.

In order to humour PDP chairman ICS Abdul Nasser Madani, the CPI(M) in the State appeared willing to break a three-decade long relationship with its ally CPI. It was Madani who decided the candidate for Ponnani, a seat which was to be contested by a CPI candidate as per the seat-sharing formula in the ruling LDF led by the CPI(M). The CPI(M) leadership displayed no qualms in being identified as Madani's ally or even counter reports that Madani had got Kerala CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan on a leash. Even after the CPI national leadership's open criticisms of the link between Madani and the CPI(M), the latter refused to break the tie or even conceal it.

The CPI tried to hold its ground for a few days, threatening the CPI(M), even openly stating that Pinarayi was responsible for the situation, but the Marxists refused to axe their association with Madani. The CPI(M) insisted that Ponnani was a seat which as a rule belonged to the CPI but its candidate would be decided by them, rather by Madani. The PDP leader, against whom allegations of terror links abound, even challenged the CPI, one of the most trustworthy political parties in Kerala, saying he would consider its views but on the condition that the candidate proposed by him for Ponnani stays. The CPI(M)-CPI standoff on the issue has now led to the biggest crisis ever in the LDF but the CPI(M) was clearly not prepared to save the front by asking Madani to be reasonable. CPI leaders did continue their fight for a while but eventually surrendered and accepted what came its way from big boss CPI(M), which has been dancing to Madani's tune.

Madani's support for the CPI(M) in Ponnani and in other seats presently is from outside but analysts are convinced that the PDP will become its most trusted ally after the elections even though the CPI(M) does not expect much from the elections despite the claims it makes for public consumption.

Ironically, all this is happening in a State whose internal security is looked after by a CPI(M) Home Minister, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, under whose charge the police have already arrested at least a dozen terror operatives with allegedly direct or indirect connections with Madani. Kodiyeri's police are convinced that these terror operatives have direct links with organisations like Indian Mujahiddeen and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. Several of those arrested have even admitted to the police that they have connections with Madani and his wife Sufiya. However, Kodiyeri says there will be no fresh probe against them.

While Madani is the apparent reason for the CPI(M)'s callous attitude towards the CPI, to the extent of even risking a possible split in the LDF, the cause of its enmity with the Janata Dal(S), an ally for 30 years with four seats in the Assembly and a Minister in the LDF Cabinet, is totally mysterious. Pinarayi Vijayan told JD(S) that it would not get the Kozhikode seat where the sitting MP was its State president MP Veerendrakumar. The CPI(M) told the party, whose national leader HD Deve Gowda was running around to bring in as many parties as possible to the Marxist dream of a Third Front, that if it wanted to contest a seat as part of the front it could take the newly created Wayanad seat. Apart from the illogical explanation of the CPI(M) about changes in the Kozhikode seat after delimitation, which could not convince even its own workers, no other reasons were provided.

There were reports that JD(S) had held negotiations with the Opposition UDF but this had no relevance because the CPI(M) had decided to wrest the Kozhikode seat even before this allegation came up. The only plausible reason was that Mathrubhumi newspaper, of which JD(S) MP Veerendrakumar was the managing director, had been running stories on corruption in the CPI(M), the redoubtable relationships of Pinarayi Vijayan, etc. However, this was not offered as a reason for denying the Kozhikode seat to the JD(S). The party threatened to withdraw its lone Minister from the Cabinet and warned that it would contest the Kozhikode seat on its own, indicating they were headed for a split. But Pinarayi and the CPI(M) remained unperturbed. On Thursday, they walked out of an LDF meet, almost deciding on the final act: Split.

It then transpired that Muhammad Riyas, the young man proposed by Pinarayi as the CPI(M) candidate for Kozhikode seat, which was a surprise even to the district committee of the party, was a close relative of businessman Pharis Aboobacker, whom Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan had once called a "hated personality", and who was reportedly a close associate of Pinarayi. Allegations came up that Pinarayi Vijayan was "duty-bound" to give the Kozhikode seat to Pharis' kin.

Analysts point out that these are disturbing trends in the alliances in store for Kerala politics from the CPI(M)'s side after the Lok Sabha elections, and perhaps the 2011 Assembly elections. On the one hand it is forging relationships with organisations which have reported links with international terror groups and on the other new friendships are being brought into politics with people and groups who are accused of slush money deals putting a question mark on the CPI(M)'s credentials.

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