The stage has been set in Wayand for one of the biggest poll battles between the Left and the Congress. According to Rahul Gandhi, he is attempting to bridge the gap between North and South India with his candidature in Wayanad. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national leadership has seized the opportunity to play the politics of communalism between the North and the South. Unfortunately, the Left parties too have unwittingly fallen for their game plan.
Thus, it seems the Left parties have forgotten their objective of bringing down the Modi Government and installing a secular Government at the Centre. This political tussle has given impetus and enthusiasm to the BJP in their endeavor to return to power at any cost. The Left, which has pledged to defeat Rahul Gandhi, is conducting a political roadshow to teach the Congress a lesson without seeming to understanding this.
This election is also a testing stone for the political and intellectual contributions that the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has provided to Indian society. Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat, who are leading the Left, are products of the JNU. It is incredible that the very same Left has taken this position in Wayanad which would cheer up the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Narendra Modi.The Left parties have been arguing that the decision of Rahul Gandhi to contest from Kerala, where the Left Democratic Front (LDF) is very strong, is a move to scuttle the coming together of the secular parties.
Rahul Gandhi’s clarifies that the decision to contest from a second constituency in Wayanad was taken after a lot of deliberations to affirm the unity of India. Even though there are elements of truth in both these arguments, the LDF’s sole objective of bringing down the Modi Government is being defeated by their recent political maneuvers on the issue of Wayanad.
On April 4, on the day Rahul came to Wayanad to file his nomination papers, The Hindu newspaper carried an article by Emeritus Professor Zoya Hasan of the JNU study centre. She wrote that Rahul Gandhi’s candidature from Wayanad is a dangerous gamble. As someone who has authored research studies on minorities including the politics of Uttar Pradesh, Hasan points out that the Left’s hopes of making gains in Kerala to compensate for their losses in West Bengal and Tripura has been shattered with Rahul Gandhi’s Wayanad candidature. And she identifies this to be the root cause of their bitterness.
However, her advice to both the Left and the Congress is to not take any steps that endanger their national political objective. She reminds every one of the need to bring together all like-minded people and parties together. She specifically points out how the Left parties ought to nail the BJP on to the extreme right-wing space in the national political spectrum. But instead, the Left parties are attempting to cast Rahul Gandhi and the Congress on to that space in Wayanad instead of the BJP as the polling day approaches.
The response of Rahul Gandhi to the Press, after the submission of his nomination papers at Wayanad, resonates with the suggestion of Zoya Hasan. He stated that he looks at the Left as a partner in the national alliance. Gandhi went on to say that he would not say anything against the Left parties even if they find fault with him or attack him for contesting in Wayanad. The Left party leaders responded sarcastically to Gandhi’s tactic by claiming that he wasn’t criticizing them out of fear for them.
In a way, the Left Front leaders are also echoing the communal statements and character assassination of Rahul Gandhi by the BJP in another way—with similar implications. The Prime Minister had stated that Rahul Gandhi ran away from Amethi fearing a backlash of the majority Hindus to Wayanad where the minority communities outnumber the majority community. According to CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s article in the party mouthpiece Deshabhimani, Rahul Gandhi ran away from Amethi with a Muslim population of 6.5 lakh. However, according to official statistics, only 96,208 members of the Muslim community had voted in Amethi in the last Lok Sabha elections. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan should clarify how he got this statistics of 6.5 lakh Muslims.
The objective of the BJP is to convert the Hindutva sentiments in North India into votes. But the CPM, which claims to be a secular party, has lost its way due to its animosity towards the Congress. Both the BJP and the Left parties are travelling on the same ‘Low Floor’ bus through the Ghats to Wayanad. Amit Shah sees Pakistan when he looks at Wayanad whereas Yogi Adityanath claims Wayanad is home to terrorist camps and Pakistan’s green flag. And it is because of this connect that Brinda Karat repeats Yogi Adityanath’s “Virus” comment in her speech. Rahul Gandhi has now filed his nomination papers from Amethi as pre-decided. But just as Smriti Irani keeps ridiculing Rahul, the Left Front leaders have vowed to chase the coward in Gandhi out of Wayanad’s soil. The Left parties, which are at its weakest today, and the weakest among all national parties, are ridiculing the Congress as weak.
There may be some justification in the Left’s criticism that the candidature of the Congress president has brought in fissures in the unification of the secular forces. But the Left should have taken the lead to paper it over and bring about a united forum of all secular parties and strengthen it as an alternate to the BJP. History will demand answers of the Left as to what they did to stop the juggernaut of Hindu nationalism led by RSS and BJP. They will also have to answer who they perceived as their real enemy: Modi or Rahul Gandhi?
It would have been better for the Left to withdraw the LDF candidate and support Rahul Gandhi in the larger national interest. There have been instances of friendly contests among these Left parties in certain seats in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal in the initial days of the formation of the Left Front. Similarly, the LDF could have upheld the goal of forming a secular government by withdrawing its candidate in Wayanad and fighting against the UDF in the other nineteen constituencies.
Wayanad has the unique distinction of being at the tri-junction where the three states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu meet. This uniqueness cannot be claimed by any other parliamentary constituency in South India. The uniqueness of Wayanad is not only geographical and cultural; it is also a representative of the inequality thrust upon agrarian India by two decades of neo-liberal policies. Wayanad also symbolizes the worst social crisis in the post-independent era emanating from the creation of an India within India.
During the last two decades, more than 1.5 crore farmers have become migrant laborers. Many of those who stuck on ended up paying the price with their lives. Wayanad too had to bear the brunt of this situation. This too might have swayed Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad in South India after prolonged deliberations. Having realized the problems and hearing the cry of the farmers, Rahul Gandhi’s Congress has come forth with new income schemes for them. For millions of poor people—including the farmers and tribal population in Wayanad—Rahul’s arrival is like the coming of a savior. The ten years of UPA rule, followed by Modi’s reign, only exacerbated the agrarian crisis in Wayanad along with the rest of India. It’s worth mentioning that the Left parties too had a say in the first four years of the UPA Government.
The Modi government’s unilateral decision of (high-value currency) demonetization and the unscientific implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) have shattered the economic and social fabric of the people of India. The atrocities and brutal attacks unleashed upon the minorities in rural India by the Modi Government—often with the backing of Constitutional bodies—and the polarization of communities by the BJP and Prime Minister Modi, has made this election a critical one. At the national level, the Muslim and Christian minorities who are feeling threatened are taking refuge in the Congress party. How can the Left parties turn a blind eye towards this?
How can the Left adopt the political strategy of letting the dreadful fascist dinosaur of extreme Hindutva in through the needle of the eye from the crack that emerged on account of Rahul Gandhi’s Wayanad candidature? BJP’s upside down view of seeing Kerala as Pakistan and as a haven of terrorists is not just their faulty vision but a calculated move to impose the lopsided political ideology of a Hindu nation under one person’s autocratic rule—through the dismantling of the history and civilization of India, its cherished secular values and Constitutional bodies.
This ideology has to be defeated at any cost in this election. There is still time left for taking corrective steps. All secular parties, including the Congress and the Left Parties, should join hands to ensure the success of all democratic forces of the Country. This objective should be achieved in the remaining six phases of the election. Along with the Left, the Congress has a bigger role and responsibility in making this happen. There is no point in pondering over good or bad omens after May 23.
(Translated for The Kochi Post by Sangita Harry and Anand Kochukudy)