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The New Communist Government in Kerala: Charting Its Own Decline

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Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, has appointed Gita Gopinath as his government’s financial advisor. Ms. Gopinath is a celebrated neo-liberal, pro-market economist who is also on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a professor at Harvard University, known for her views in favour of liberalization, privatization and free trade.

Thus, that the Kerala’s CPM government should appoint her in an honorary role as an economic advisor is surprising. But, if we look at the track record of the present government, it becomes clear that the current Left government in Kerala is anything but Leftist. With this appointment, it appears that with every passing day, the Left is getting more and more caught up in its own contradictions. The party is already dead in West Bengal. It was widely criticized for having entered a marriage of convenience with the Congress in West Bengal’s recent by-polls and then failing miserably.

In Kerala, the party’s victory in the by-polls has heralded a beginning change, yes – but a change in the opposite direction to the one that is expected. The communist government in the state is, paradoxically, more capital-oriented in its actions than the previous UPA government. Its main focus is on efficient industrial growth whose effects can then trickle down as developmental outcomes.

When it comes to transacting work and policies, the current CM, Mr. Vijayan, has a frictionless relationship with the Centre. Amid protests, the government is carrying forward the controversial Rs. 7500-crore Vizhinjam port project of the former Congress-led UDF government sponsored by Adani enterprise, which will impair the distribution of monsoon rains between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, affect the livelihood of fishermen in coastal areas, and being just 30 km from Tamil Nadu’s Colachel port project, will have its commercial viability affected. The CM also received the Centre’s assurance on other industrial commitments. The CM has also been coordinating with other central ministers in the Modi government for various project proposals.

While this is the macro reality of Kerala’s new Leftist state struggling to jump onto the developmental bandwagon to remain relevant, this is not likely to have much impact in a state whose social fabric is utterly primitive, and getting torn apart day-by-day. When the controversy over Love Jihad or sly religious conversions by Muslim groups – opposed by Hindus and Christians alike – was raised 7-8 years back, it was viciously quashed in the name of upholding secularism. And now, it seems that time is taking its own revenge. The current prospects of the state are bleak.

Socially, politically and culturally, the state has been rife with the cult of violence, brutal murders, rapes, and high crime rates. The social and civil violence – including organized killings in the name of religion – both perpetrates and is influenced by political anarchy at the level of government. Recently, one of the top CPI (M) bosses, Mr. Kodiyeri, didn’t realize the backlash his statement about killing off opponents would provoke – not surprising, given the reality of the state. Kannaur – which is also the constituency of the Kerala CM – has seen an increase in brutal political murders in broad daylight, with the CPI (M) workers attacking the RSS workers, and the latter retaliating wherever they can. It is like being in a Communist-Islamist theocracy, which is completely divorced from the rule of law and the rest of the country.

The very ‘intolerance’ accusation that the Left and the Congress hurled at the Modi government about a year back is, ironically, visible the most within the Leftist ranks. It has become a minoritarian party that, socially, upholds the goonda raj. Because of the high number of Malayalis in the Gulf, the returns received by the state include both remittances and funding for terrorism and radical preachers, for a long time, leading to a rise in the number of youth being radicalized by Islam – especially educated youth – leaving Hinduism and Christianity and migrating to the Gulf after converting to Islam. The rise in such cases has been to such extents that now even the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau of Kerala – acknowledging the trend of Kerala recruits in the ISIS and the intelligence reports of 5700 conversions to Islam between 2011-2015 – is thinking of bringing under the ambit of corruption investigations those cases which involve religious conversions through the incentive of offer of money.

Another closely related dimension of the Left and Congress’s secular politics in the state is now bearing results in the increased disruption of social stability due to rising influx of immigrants – with more than total 3 million migrants in the state – from Bengal and Bangladesh. They do all the unskilled and manual jobs, since the Malayalis are only interested in white-collar jobs or have migrated to the Gulf. As a result, there has been a rise in the crime rates in Kerala, and, in turn, a rise in the violence against the migrants themselves. The brutal rape and murder of a Dalit law student –which became an election issue in the latest bypolls – who stayed near a migrant village, by a Muslim migrant, is a case in point.

And yet, the state continues to be soft on migrants. If a suspect might be a Bangladeshi, then his arrest needs to validated under the Foreigners’ Act by first proving that he migrated without valid documents. With such a state of affairs, it is no wonder that the Kerala anti-migrant crowds are taking law in their own hands, with the upshot that the police refrains from recording such cases. Although, in the past few months, the condition of migrant crime has been so bad that the state government is having to sit up and take notice.

It will not be long before this cult of violence takes its toll on the Kerala government. It recognizes – as is clear from Mr. Vijayan’s actions – that it can no longer take recourse to Leftist policies in a changing political-economy, but while it is left ideologically rudderless, its encouragement of political violence and the deteriorating social and religious condition in the state is threatening to engulf the government in its flames.

This was always the predestined future of the Left – in India, as world-over. Even in West Bengal, the Left was responsible for spoiling the social fabric and precipitating a politics and society of violence and goonda raj, which is prevalent even today. But the difference, increasingly, is that now even the secular space that the Left occupied is being taken away, leaving it with no face to even talk about intolerance and freedom.

Appendix:

Rising crimes by migrant workers in Kerala:

Source: Manorama. http://english.manoramaonline.com/news/just-in/migrant-crisis-kerala-workers-labourers-accused-criminal-cases.html

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