August 04, 2019

Through the Minds of the People

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan

THE activity of CPI(M) activists reaching out to people to enquire the reasons for the defeat of LDF in the parliament election, is ongoing.  It had been decided by the CPI(M) state committee that the visit should be conducted in the 70 lakh homes of the state between July 22-28.  There are 35,000 Party branches and 5.15 lakh Party members.  All Party members from the state level leaders to branch committee members are involving themselves in this activity.



When house visit programme was conducted at Thiruvananthapuram, people from different sections expressed diverse opinions and comrades, including me, have listened to them carefully. There are people who had stated that they have deliberately desisted from voting for the LDF even though they had no animosity.  There are also people who had reacted with a broken heart that they had not expected such a massive defeat. Some of the voters who have never voted for any other political entity other than the LDF so far, have changed their mind this time. There are people who have told that they expected Rahul Gandhi to be the PM and it will be beneficial to Kerala and with this hope they voted for the UDF. Political ideological issues, administrative matters, development related concerns and matters related to caste, religion and belief got reflected in the opinions expressed by the people. Our Party does not have an intolerant or dissatisfied approach/attitude towards these. That which needs correction will be corrected.  Those which are to be resolved will be resolved – because the Party and the government are for the people and not above the people. LDF and the government will go forward by taking the people into confidence.

When we reached an agraharam of Thiruvananthapuram, many complaints were heard. One of them was that they were called ‘Savarna Hindus’ and ignored. They stated that communists often mention the ideology of RSS as Savarna Hindu domination. I reminded them that it was not to insult those who are born in Savarna communities and are living in extreme poverty.  In earlier period, wealth, power and laws were all for the Savarna Hindus who led grandiose lives. For avarnas, untouchability and exclusion/discrimination was the defining feature. Leaders including EMS had worked towards dismantling this system.  But those like Golwalkar tried to preserve this system of social inequality. Political and theoretical high will continue in this regard. At the same time, communist movement will adopt positions taking into account the concrete circumstances of the present. A major section of Savarna Hindus, including Brahmins, are economically backward these days.  That is why CPI(M), since long, has been demanding reservation for economically weaker sections among the upper castes while retaining the reservation for people who belong to backward classes.  A senior member of the agraharam said, “I will show starving families even in this agraharam.  You should do something to protect them.”

This is a very just demand.  Many of the agraharams have turned into slums.  A programme which guarantees at least Rs 5 lakh per household for renovation, should be implemented. I have assured them that it will be brought to the notice of the government and further actions will be taken.  Women graduates from agraharams usually go for jobs only in selected institutions like LIC, banks and BSNL.  But the probability of getting employed in these institutions has become rare. The policy of central government of privatising the public sector has diminished the opportunities for employment.

We also met the chief ascetics of various denominations.  Among them, we met the Christian religious leads including Major Archbishop Cardinal Mar Baselios Clemese Bawa, Major Archbishop Susapakyam and CSI Bishop Dharmaraj Raselam. They have positively responded about the reduced estrangement between the churches and the communists.  They have said that it is due to the strength of the Left that communal problems like that occurring in North India do not happen in Kerala and they will not make any deliberate interventions to defeat the Left.  There has been great material loss due to Cyclone Okhi and floods in the coastal belt.  Archbishop Susapakyam said that the chief minister of Kerala has shown readiness to listen carefully about this.  He also elaborated upon the administrative measures that need to be undertaken at the government level. He added that fishermen belong to the basic classes and the communists should protect them, considering them as the working class.  I opined that the churches should take lead to implement the government programmes designed to provide more education to the fishermen families and to induct them into various professions, with the help of the government. He agreed with this.

Apart from social issues, Archbishop Clemese elaborated upon the changes required in the education sector. Due to the reduction in the number of students, many of the self-financing engineering colleges have either been closed or are on the verge of closure.  Special attention is required to raise the standards of higher education.  He suggested that the government should permit self-financing institutions of excellence to be converted into autonomous institutions. He pointed that the traditional thinking that the Left and the church are two poles, has collapsed and though the estrangement has been undone, yet at the lower levels this has to find a reflection.  Bishop Raselam elucidated the issues related to CSI institutions. Thalassery Bishop has given lot of suggestions to the comrades on the issues about the Party development.

Some of those whom we visited revealed that ‘Sabarimala’ is a factor in the vote loss to the LDF.  Some women who are homemakers have openly told that they had shifted their votes due to the Sabarimala issue.  There are also people who have opined that they have voted for the Left despite huge dissatisfaction.  The Supreme Court verdict permitting the entry of young women is not the creation of the LDF government. Parties including the BJP and the Congress supported the verdict when it was passed. Some people accused that the government could not intervene, considering it as a political struggle, as these parties shifted their position. It was also opined that the entry of two women, who were considered as non-believers by believers, into the temple after the ‘Vanitha Mathil’ (Wall of Women) has caused huge setbacks to the government and the LDF.



Supreme Court has given the Sabarimala verdict taking into account the fundamental rights provided in the constitution for gender equality.  Some women on their own made it clear that the argument of the LDF that the state government cannot undo it, has become evident today.  Central minister Ravi Sankar Prasad replied that legislation overthrowing the verdict is not possible.  He was responding to the demand of Sashi Tharoor for a law to bypass the verdict. UDF’s claim that they will legislate to bypass the SC verdict if they come to power in the state, should be assessed in this context.  The policy of the Congress and the BJP on Sabarimala, is a trick to fool voters and gain votes. A substantial section of voters have started recognising that. CPI(M) is not against the freedom of worship, faith or rituals of the people. But due to the intervention of political organisations of the enemy classes, caste, religious and community organisations, and a section of the media, a misunderstanding was created that the LDF was against it freedom of belief and freedom of worship and believers. It is realised from the responses of the people that this has resulted in a loss of votes for the LDF.

Even those who have voted against the LDF, had expressed great appreciation over the functioning of the state government led by the CPI(M). It was suggested that the controversies which sometimes obscure the achievements of the government should be addressed and resolved. Opinions also emerged about the caution that needs to be exercised in the matter of policing. The suggestions and opinions that are received from various parts of the state will be taken to the state committee by the branch committees through the higher committees.  The state committee to be convened in August will examine these in detail.

There are certain criticisms and suggestions which should be studied by the government, Party and the LDF.  They will be studied and further actions will be undertaken.

Complaints and suggestions have also come up about the measures that need to be adopted to address development issues at the state and local levels.  There will be administrative intervention in the required cases. There will be checkups to increase the efficiency of the functioning of co-operative and local self governing institutions.

How to improve the functioning of the Party and the government, and the mistakes that need to be corrected, will be examined.  The week-long house visit programme has provided a great experience to the communist movement of Kerala.  It was a mission to know the minds of the people, learn from the people and work for the people. Go forward by strengthening the activities of the Party units and class and mass organisations. This mass contact programme is for providing momentum to this.