It was not unanticipated when the Left which played a pivotal role in shaping combat against communalism in Kerala, came down heavily on Congress and its chief Rahul Gandhi, when the latter announced his candidature from the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency seat besides from Amethi.
The announcement sprung a surprise on political parties and sent a ripple through the country. Miffed with the announcement (perceiving it as an act of hampering opposition unity), a known hardliner, former Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPM boss, Prakash Karat fumed.
“To pick a candidate like Rahul Gandhi against the Left means that the Congress is going to target the Left in Kerala. This is something which we will strongly oppose, and, in this election, we will work to ensure the defeat of Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad,” Karat said.
But, D Raja - a Rajya Sabha member from the Communist Party of India (CPI) - took a different line from Karat.
“This makes no sense. I don't understand what politics the Congress is playing here. There is no BJP to fight in Kerala, it is the Left versus the Congress-led UDF. By choosing a constituency in Kerala for Rahul Gandhi, what message is the Congress conveying to the country,” he asked.
Here lies the classical dilemma of the Left - what should be the response of the Left towards combating communalism vis-à-vis its relation with a mainstream political party which by all means is considered a bourgeoisie party?
The difference between the two statements from two leaders belonging to the same ideology, highlights the contradictions within the Indian Left, though the priority is to oust Modi government, strategy differs. Here it is important to mention that while Karat vowed to defeat Rahul, Raja only questioned Congress’ intention.
Perhaps, what he better understands than Karat in the post poll scenario is that, Congress’ tally will matter more than the Left in order to oust BJP from power. Contrary to his party man, CPM’s general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, who is considered as an intellectual comrade of the Congress president - maintained that it is Congress internal matter. No wonder, his response is widely seen as an endorsement of D Raja’s thinking.
Arguably, there is a good number of people who believe Rahul Gandhi’s entry in to the Wayanad poll battle will hit BJP-RSS more than the Left in the long run.
“It will have a neutralising effect on the ground, especially against Hindu extremists who began to gain ground in God’s own country after the Sabarimala episode,” said a senior journalist. He further argued,
1) Given the popularity of the Congress president, Left front will certainly lose the seat, but eventually it will benefit the people in long run as Rahul Gandhi’s entry will expand the middle grounds in violence ridden Kerala politics.
2) Rahul Gandhi is among a few top politicians who has been hitting the RSS on its head. His continuous criticism of the BJP’s parent organisation brought it into the mainstream debate, exposing their hypocrisy, said an observer.
“Therefore, his fighting the election will hit BJP-RSS prospects more than the Left.”
3) Rahul Gandhi has a face value and much-more political capital than anyone else in the country. Therefore, his directly challenging the RSS in a state where the right wing organisation is trying hard to make inroads, will have a checkmate impact.
4) His entry will oust the third power (BJP-RSS) from the fray making it a two way fight, not only in Wayanad but in Northern Kerala also.
5) It will have a ripple effect, boosting Congress’ tally in the lower house. As per an observer, need of the hour is to bag maximum seats so that the Modi government can be ousted. Long term ideological battle can be fought later.
Otherwise also, Wayanad has by nature been a Congress strong hold. A merely three-elections old constituency has voted in favour of Congress in two polls.
As per political pundits, Wayanad which is rich in rubber and coffee plantation, lagged in the development index. Known as a rural constituency, it has a heavy tribal demography. That will also go in favour of Congress.
A north Indian journalist who has just finished his Wayanad tour said, “Tribal communities such as Paniya, Adiya and Kurichiya have a deep resentment against the ruling LDF. They will naturally ally with the Congress.”
“Though BJP tried to hinduise them but did not get much success. I have noticed glee on their face when they talk about Rahul Gandhi. They think Rahul Gandhi becoming their MP and PM may change their fate,” said the journalist.
In 2009 when Wayanad came into being as a Lok Sabha seat for the first time, Congress’ MI Shanavas secured almost 50% vote share and won by a lakh and half votes in 2009, defeating CPI. In 2014, though Shanavas won again but victory margin narrowed down.
Although BJP fielded its candidate in the last two polls, failed to make any mark. After Sabarimala, the saffron party tried hard to win over the upper caste Nair and the backward class Ezhava, but they did not get much success, said an observer.
Perhaps, in haste, BJP fielded Thushar Vellappally, President of Bharath Dharma Jana Sena as NDA candidate in an apparent bid to polarise the election but this is the point where BJP failed the people’s sentiment, said an observer.
Thushar Vellappally is the son of Vellapally Natesan, who heads the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP). The outfit represents the Hindu Ezhava caste, which has a sizeable, strong presence across Kerala and enjoys considerable influence, but the problem is that Ezhava are known as staunch Left supporters.
As per observers, Kerala people who are considered as wiser and equipped with the better sense of political judgement, have a natural dislike for the communal politics, therefore they will reject the saffron politics in God’s own country.