In the early 80s after the third communist-led Government in Kerala fell before its term ended, there was a thought-provoking cartoon by the great OV Vijayan. It had veteran EMS Namboothiripad, with three flags marked 1959, 1969 and 1981 high behind him, proclaiming: "Comrades, the State has withered away not once but thrice."
Politics makes strange bedfellows has been an old perception that surprisingly has now found relevance in the context of CPM getting wholehearted backing for its recent controversial actions from none other than its supposed arch rival BJP.
Four recent things have earned the CPM a big pat from BJP. It has literally bid adieu to the much-hyped renaissance over letting young women worship at Sabarimala, got its police kill four Maoists in Attappadi, boldly let its own police arrest two of its party members under UAPA and now even tried to give an Islamist terror angle to the Maoist issue. Reading a BJP thread to all these could be like the oft-seen, oft-heard and oft-unbelieved comment - purely coincidental and fictitious.
All these actions may have confused CPM followers and sympathisers and even made one of the ruling front constituents, CPI, publicly criticise the police under Chief Minister-cum-Home Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for toeing Union Home Minister Amit Shah's line. But the State leadership has stood firm, ignoring the party central leadership that now seems to exist on the strength and mercy of and support from Kerala.
The recent politburo meeting of the CPM might have seen Pinarayi at the receiving end despite his vehement denial. The heated arguments centred round the arrest of two of its young party members from Kozhikode under UAPA, an aftermath of the police 'encounter' with suspected Maoists in the forests of Attappadi a month ago, leaving four dead and not bruise to a policeman or any other signs after a 'long encounter'. None justifies the Maoist theory of annihilation and even in the heydays of Naxal violence in the 70s, there was no such encounter killings. Several of the Naxalites of yesteryears are now part of the mainstream. And this happened not through gunshots against them.
All UAPA arrests have happened when the CPM stand officially is against 'draconian' Act and there is no report of it having changed stance overnight.
While its other Left partner CPI sent a team to Attappadi and found that the encounter claim was fake and that the UAPA arrest of the two party youths was unfair, the Kerala CPM and the Home Minister justified the 'encounter' and initially said they would do all to remove the UAPA charges. But the whole drama has now got a twist and a different colour too much like how the Central Government has scripted.
Party Kozhikode district secretary P Mohanan who, immediately after the arrest, had raised a storm, created another at a public address alleging that there are Maoist links with Islamic terror groups and later blamed the Muslim extremist group NDF. Asked for his comments, a disturbed party general secretary Sitaram Yechury had this to say, "Ask the state leaders."
Mohanan received backing from CPM popular leader P Jayarajan who referred to the supremo of SDPI, a group that has changed names everytime it was banned. Incidentally, SDPI was behind the murder of an SFI activist at Maharaja's College, Ernakulam, last year and the police have not gone far in the case. At least at a few local panchayat levels, the CPM has had no qualms in staying in power with tacit SDPI support.
The Government and the party as of now claim the two youths were arrested under UAPA on charges of being Maoists. The Islamic terrorist angle is still not there. CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran’s caustic comment was that it was not Communist 'tradition' to go by only what the police say and his party was against any move to 'dilute' Left ideology.
How such elements easily sneaked into the party cannot but be an indication of the weakening of its 'strong' cadre structure.
On the Sabarimala issue, the CPM, ironically, still swears by Marx and waxes eloquently on gender justice and equality and even at the peak of violent protests last year by Hindu groups against young women entry to Sabarimala built a Woman Wall across the State claiming to uphold the values of renaissance. But with the recent verdict of the Supreme Court to refer the review petitions against young women entry to a larger Bench, the CPM took umbrage under 'ambiguity' in the verdict to decide against allowing young women worship this time due to political compulsions.
If it were sincere in its renaissance wall for which Rs 700 crore was spent in this cash-starved State, the CPM could well resolve this so-called ambiguity by moving the Supreme Court for clarification. It has already spent so much to hire lawyers in cases in the apex court where its partymen have been in the list of accused. Here it's a matter concerning all, especially women.
It has even failed to rein in some of its leaders, including its minister like K Surendran, not to be mistaken with the namesake BJP leader who shot to 'fame' through the Sabarimala protests and was seen purposely throwing down the 'irumudikettu' (the bag containing the puja materials) when arrested. Devaswom Minister Kadakkampilly Surendran like a refrain has been going around saying the party is with 'devotees' and 'activists' should stay away from the shrine, something that his namesake has been saying for the last one year.
At the peak of the Sabarimala protests last year, the CPM accused the Congress of being the B team of BJP. But exactly a year down after the Attappadi 'encounter', the UAPA arrests and the Islamic terror 'link' theory, and the Sabarimala stand, all wholly endorsed by the BJP, doubts get concretised as to who has earned that B team status.
It was not the Maoists who made CPM lose its ground in West Bengal and Tripura. An often heard comment in CPM study classes of yesteryears was the party is the state, though Marx had something else to say about what ultimately would happen to the State.
If anyone who is closely following the CPM's ways sees Bengal, Tripura and… in OV Vijayan's 'thrice' withering away of the State, such a prophecy may simply be purely coincidental and non-fictitious.