"If as a Communist you don't practise ideals in private life also, you'll face public trial" was an old slogan scribbled on walls during the height of the extreme Left movement in the '70s.
If it rings some sense even today after the the electoral hustings, it is certainly not sheer coincidence. The writing is there on the wall. That explains why, even if in a jocular tone, some of the Congress leaders went public to thank CPM politburo leader and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan whose haughtiness, they claim, helped in a section voting for UDF candidates.
The initial assessment of the politburo was that the party failed to predict defeat due to cross-voting. A senior party worker who has been member of a district panchayat for years and began political activity as a student says the recent drubbing of the CPM only points to how much it has distanced itself from the people. He recounts the Lok Sabha election immediately after Emergency when as a booth representative, he gave his account of the number of votes the party candidate would get in the evening after poll. After counting, a senior leader pulled him up as he had gone wrong by eight votes. "Since you've decided to work with the party, you should know that you should always be close to people," was the advice. Saddened by the state of party affairs, he said, "Look at what the party's highest body says, 'failed to predict the failure'. This is where things have reached."
He is among the many who are not surprised by the people's verdict that trounced LDF, giving it just a single of the 20 seats in Kerala.
And yet, the state leadership of the party has the audacity to say the soft stand of the central leadership towards Congress worked against the party in Kerala. That too when leaders are coming out in public on the Sabarimala issue. More than the haste in implementing the Sabarimala verdict of the Supreme Court allowing young women to worship at the shrine, it was the way the situation was handled that distanced people from the party. If it were against the party stand, BJP candidates should have won.
Another senior party leader admitted in a private conversation that the Sabarimala issue came handy to build a fanatic Hindu group to make people aware of 'Hindu terror' that will come with Modi's return to power. The BJP-RSS fell for it, helping consolidation of minorities. But unfortunately, it was the UDF which benefited from this, he admitted.
The Woman Wall built by the CPM to rekindle the spirit of renaissance never got translated into votes as even those projected to be in the forefront of such an initiative started speaking against it the very next day. The party may have to decide whether it backfired and only helped in fomenting communal divide.
As critics within the party point out during private conversations, ideology has been given a go-by. The publicity given to Pinarayi ringing the bell at the London Stock Exchange during the listing of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board's masala bond goes against the grind of Marxian thought as the bourse is not the economic guide for the CPM and should be seen as a 'gambling den'.
When people fully aware of ground reality speak about rebuilding Kerala after the devastating August 2018 floods, Pinarayi invites an economist (Thomas Piketty) from abroad to give a prescription for Kerala's development. The earlier experiment with Gita Gopinath, who now is the chief economist with IMF, once an arch enemy of Pinarayi and team, is quite recent, they point out.
Another senior leader, when asked during a private conversation whether he goes to the State capital regularly like before when the LDF used to be in power, admits that it does not happen these days. "A bunch of officials control things. It may not be for favours that we used to go there. But raising points with the CM on a local issue that needs Government intervention is now near impossible as one has to pass through a rigmarole of officials before we finally reach there which too is remote," he laments.
This explains why party veteran MM Lawrence said publicly that the defeat is reason for self-introspection. There has to be a change in the way things are working. All, including the Chief Minister, may have to correct themselves, he said.
Even when the party assessment is that a section of the religiously faithful, though no direct mention of Sabarimala was made, voted against LDF candidates, Pinarayi asserts that Sabarimala had nothing to do with the election results. He also adds that there is nothing wrong in his style of functioning and he says categorically that he refuses to change.
There is revolt growing within the party as an analysis of the results would mean a frank and free discussion. But how far this will go with the adamant stand of the party leadership remains unpredictable.
What Marx said about leaders remains relevant even today making them rethink how many of them have made people happy.
"History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy."