Thursday, April 30, 2009

Down Memory Lane: A K Sankara Menon and his Struggles

ONE OF the things which I wanted to do, and failed, was to meet A K Sankara Menon, freedom fighter.

He died last year on April 28 and I was there at his home in Koyilandy, to pay my respects. Instead of the man I wanted to meet, I had to contend with meeting his family and have a look at the old house where he spent his life. It was an ordinary house with very little facilities, quite unlike the abodes of our political leaders with or without a legacy in freedom movement.

Sankara Menon did have a great legacy as he was one of the last of our freedom fighters who did actually face torture and arrest under the British. As a young student of Koyilandy Government High School, he was arrested by the British authorities along with his elder brother for singing Vandematharam, an anathema to the colonial rulers.

Later he was part of the liberation movements in Goa and Jammu & Kashmir, where he had faced tremendous police brutality. In fact, in Goa, where the Portuguese were still holding on to their colonial property in spite of India’s liberation from colonial rule in 1947, freedom fighters form various parts of India converged and it was Sankara Menon who led the team from Kerala.

He was part of a stream in our national movement which traced their ancestry to Vir Savarkar and his line of religious nationalism. Naturally, Sankara Menon became part of Jan Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party, in his political career but he kept his austere ways and commitment to principles till his end.

At a memorial meeting in Kozhikode the other day, organized by Sankara Menon Trust led by his son and journalist K S Sarat Lal, I heard O Rajagopal and P S Sreedharan Pillai, his long-time colleagues, recount their memories about the man and his struggles. One thing they talked about was the way he kept himself away from the centres of power, in spite of the fact that his party had been holding power at the Centre for a number of times but he was one person conspicuously absent at the corridors of power.

That explains why I failed to meet him in his life time. His son was a senior journalist in Delhi when BJP was ruling this country, but he was not a presence even in his son’s place at the capital.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Polls Enter Second Leg This Week

India votes this week in the second leg of its elections to the 15th Lok Sabha: news

An exciting game of politics...!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What the Ballots Hold: crystal gazing on electoral outcome in Kerala

THERE IS an eerie uncertainty after the polls. Now more than 48 hours since the voting in Kerala in the first phase of the general election to the 15th Lok Sabha, people are trying to second guess who might have gained and who lost in the polling. The speculations will continue till the day the votes are counted.

Let me add my own bit to the prevailing confusion:

There is every reason to feel that there has been a swift, subterranean move among voters that has caused very dearly to the left parties, mainly the CPM in this election. In the past few weeks I had talked to hundreds of people who used to vote for CPM for many years, but I see there is a mood swing. Most of them were bitter with their own party, for various reasons.

I am not talking about the rebels in the CPM or the dissidents who have surfaced in places like Vatakara, Palakkad and Kozhikode. I speak about the ordinary party workers mainly from the poorer sections who were once the backbone of the Communist party. Now there is a feeling that the party has abandoned them, and it has been converted into a middle class organization. The candidate selection this time has strengthened this perception of alienation.

Unlike the 2004 and 2006 elections when the minorities like Christians and Muslims were either divided or shifted towards the left, giving the LDF a thumping win, this time there is a swing to the other side. The CPM leadership, in its post-poll analysis, has accepted that the Christians have returned to the UDF fold this time, but feel the Muslims are still with the left. This is a wrong perception because what I have seen in the northern Muslim belt is a fast deterioration of relations between the Muslim masses and CPM for a variety of reasons.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The CPM Strategy Backfiring in Kerala Election: Notes from the campaign scene

AT THE initial stage of the present election process to the 15th Lok Sabha, on March 24, I had posted the following note in a discussion forum raising some of my doubts. I feel, three weeks into the campaign, it is time now to rethink the same issue once again:

A few days ago Dr. Santhakumar, an economist, had said he was witnessing some positive trends in Kerala's politics in this election. He appeared to have given much stress to the rise of new communal forces and their entry to left front, while parties like CPI, Janata Dal, and RSP were taking a beating.

I am unable to see a positive trend in this development, but I do see the current developments as the beginning of the end of the Left and Democratic Front in Kerala. It is more than 30 years old and it cannot withstand the shifting sands of politics in Kerla today. Hence a realignment of forces is natural and even to be welcomed.

My questions are as follows:

1. When Abdunnaser Madani and his PDP come to the centre stage in left politics, what would be the impact on traditional Hindu voters in the CPM? They are not a force to be ignored because in 1987 we know it was this segment which proved decisive in the left victory. It is also a fact that this lower middle class people, mainly Ezhavas and Nairs, etc, are a strong base for CPM in most places.

2. Now that Raman Pillai's Jana Paksham has joined forces with CPM, what impact they will have on the traditional left supporters? Have they ever openly rejected their past, the violent Hindutva politics that they practiced?

3. What impact the CPM dissidents will have in this election? I personally feel that in Vatakara, Kozhikode and Palakkad, where they have strong candidates, they will win decisive number of votes.

4. Is it time for the left forces to abandon their traditional secular and leftist image and don a right-wing, communal conglomerate image, something which they always accused of UDF in the past? Is the secular politics so discredited in our society that even the left can safely abandon its strong points of the past?

These points were made three weeks ago. Now the situation seems to be a bit more clear. And what do we see now?

I feel the CPM strategy of unscrupulous alliance with communal forces of both the Hindu and Islamic variety has backfired. Two days ago, I saw Prakash Karat, CPM general secretary, making it clear that there is no alliance with Madani and what he was given to understand by the State CPM secretary was that the PDP would carry out their campaign separately. It seems either the CPM has changed its strategy of open combined campaign which Pinarayi inaugurated in Ponnani or that the CPM general secretary is distancing himself from what his state counterpart did here.

The second aspect is that there is a very clear consolidation of Muslim votes in the north, especially since the CPM has been trying to cut into the Muslim vote base in Malappuram and Ponnnani. Right now it appears the IUML will win not only Ponnani, but could re-capture Malappuram (earlier Mnajeri) which the CPM had won in 2004.

The third point is is, the rebel CPM is proving to a force to reckon with. Their campaign in Vatakara, Kozhikode and Palakkad, etc, is very effective and they threaten to seriously cut into the vote base of CPM. I hear reports and personal comments from a number of comrades who are reluctant to vote for the party this time and watching the campaign scene, it is evident the CPM cadres are not yet active in the field.

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's Manifesto Time Now

Congress manifesto promises rice at Rs. 3 a kg; BJP at Rs. 2 a kg: news

Who said promises need to be kept...?