Kerala has the distinction of producing the first elected Communist chief minister anywhere in the world. Now it can earn another distinction too. Whether it is in 2021, or any time in the future, the state may go down in history as having one which elected the last Communist chief minister on this planet.
As nowhere in the world—barring the existing one in Nepal and Mexico—the Communist or Left leaning party now comes to power with the help of ballots there is no such scope of electoral victory. It is only in India that they take part in electoral politics in such a way. Here too they have been wiped out from West Bengal and Tripura and have hardly any scope of revival. It is only in Kerala that they are still in power and have substantial political clout.
In 1957 E M S Namboodiripad led the first government of the then undivided Communist Party of India. It is other thing that the then Jawaharlal Nehru government got it sacked in 1959. Nehru had to face a lot of criticism for this what many called, a highly undemocratic action.
However, critics are of the view that Nehru came under the influence of his daughter, Indira Gandhi, in doing so as she had by mid-1950s started taking too much interest in the Congress party politics. In fact, she became the party president in 1959 itself.
Apart from Namboodiripad, Kerala produced several Communist stalwarts like A K Gopalan, C Achutha Menon, Prakash Karat etc. The split in the CPI had its impact here in Kerala too.
But, unlike in West Bengal and Tripura where the Left ruled for 34 and 25 long years without any interruption, in Kerala the Left Democratic Front and Congress have been winning election alternatively for the last more than four decades.
But this time the Left is hopeful of breaking this tradition and win two times in a row. They are pinning hope on the performance of the present chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who earned a lot of reputation for carrying out good relief and rehabilitation works during the 2018 devastating flood as well as tackling the challenge of corona virus pandemic.
But the Congress-led United Democratic Front cite the example of the 2019 Lok Sabha election in which it bagged 19 out of 20 seats.
However, independent political observers are of the view that it would not be fully appropriate to measure the popularity of Vijayan government with the help of 2019 election as that was contested keeping in mind the national politics. As the Left was not in a position to put a challenge before the BJP all over the country the people opted for the Congress.
Not only that, the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi, was contesting from Wayanad in Kerala–besides Amethi in UP from where he lost.
In 2016 Assembly election the LDF won 91 seats against the UPA 42 in the House of 140. The two main constituents of the UDF, the Congress and Indian Union Muslim League bagged 21 and 18 seats respectively while the rest three were taken by smaller parties.
The irony is that while the Left and Congress are pitted against each other in Kerala, in West Bengal they are contesting in alliance with each other—though they have not yet finalised the seat-sharing arrangements. The truth is that the combine is in a hopeless position in West Bengal where the fight is mainly between the Trinamool Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.
What is feared most by both the Left and Congress in Kerala is the gradual rise in the graph of the BJP. After their decimation in West Bengal and Tripura the Left is fighting for survival in Kerala. The condition of Congress elsewhere in the country is not very good, but at least better than the Communists. The Congress is in power, or sharing power in at least half a dozen states of the country.
The problem with the Left in India is that after the collapse of Communism in the then Soviet Union in early 1990s, and China abandoning the ideology, its workers and supporters do not shy away from joining the saffron party.
The BJP did very well in 2019 Lok Sabha poll in West Bengal because of the wholesale transfer of the Left votes towards the saffron party. In contrast, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress votes did not shrink much.
So, if this phenomenon continues in Kerala, if not this time but in future, then it would not be good for the communists in that state too.
Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. The views expressed are personal.