The Assembly election results are out. As expected and predicted Mamata Banerjee virtually wiped out the Left Front from West Bengal Assembly. Unexpectedly the LDF in Kerala only lost by a whisker.If about a 1000 votes changed hands they would have been still in power. The main reason for this remarkable performance by LDF is obviously the VS factor which made many neutrals and fence sitters vote LDF.
Thus these elections in CPM ruled States resulted in the Party losing power. The real victors were Mamata Banerjee the in coming Chief Minister of Bengal and VS Achuthanadan, the out going Chief Minister of Kerala. Will the CPM learn the lessons from their victories?
In the 70s and 80s VS was just an ‘Alleppy’ leader of CPM. Those were the times of towering figures of EMS and AKG. In most meetings of the CPM, when VS finally get to the microphone the cadres used to get up and go rather than listen to his long drawn out mimcry like speeches. Then came the time of E.K.Nayanar the ‘simpleton comedian’ leader who also was very popular. Though VS was the Party Secretary for a long time he was never considered a popular leader. He was also never very popular inside his own Party. Many a time he was accused of ‘group’ politics inside the Party.He was also said to be very ambitious of power.In 1996 when VS was supposed to be the CM candidate he mysteriously lost the elections probably due to the mischief of his own Party men.From then onwards he was vary of some of his comrades and tried to creat a path of his own.
The graph of VS’s popularity began to rise after he became the Opposition leader for the first time in 2001.That was a wonderful performance which got applause from each and every one. Mushrooming Malayalam TV News channels hungry for video and sound bytes feasted on VS’s struggle against Corruption,Sex and Land mafia. Most of the time he never waited for the green signal from Party Committee but ploughed his own course. His image as a strong crusader against injustice became bigger and bigger.Many in his own Party was not amused with his rise in popularity.That resulted in VS being denied Party ticket to contest in 2006.Lack of discipline and ‘groupism’ were the reasons pointed out for the denial. An uproar in the Civil Society fuelled by the anti-Left media forced the Party to reverse it decision. May be for the first time in its history the Party instead of dictating to the public,was dictated by it.
The LDF won a massive victory and VS became the Chief Minister.The fight between the Official Party lead by Pinarayi Vijayan and VS continued. VS never lost a chance to make jibes at Pinarayi and the ensuing word-fight resulted in both of them demoted from the Politburo.
Meanwhile the LDF under some able ministers were able to provide fairly good governance to the State.VS might not have been directly instrumental in that but facilitated it.
But LDF lost most of the seats in Parliamentary elections in 2009 held after some sharp in fighting between alliance partners as result of arrogance of CPM. In the Local Bodies elections of 2010, LDF could fair only marginally better.In fighting in CPM, inability to convey the message of good governance,hostile mass media etc were considered to be the causes.
Those 2 results made every one predict a cake-walk for UDF in Assembly elections of 2011.Even many in the Party openly indicated that next Government will be that of UDF.UDF leaders started discussions about ministries.
Then a few fortunate co-incidences helped to turn the tide for LDF.Balakrishna Pillay, a former UDF minister,widely regarded as corrupt was sentenced to 1 year jail by the Supreme Court. VS was personally responsible for pressing the appeal. Instead of keeping a distance from a person convicted for corruption ,UDF leaders arranged a ‘martyr’s’ reception for Pillay. The in famous Ice-cream parlour sex-mafia case came back to haunt Muslim League’s Kunjalikutty. Kunjalikutty’s aide turned foe’s revelations made it more clear for the public about his guilt. UPA Govt’s scams never left the headline space of news papers.
An aggressive VS began to attack UDF with all the above issues.At the same time the rank and file of LDF began door to door campaign highlighting the achievements of LDF rule.UDF instead of trying to counter the points raised by VS,began to attack VS personally,which boomeranged on them. The anti-Left media tried in vain to create a villain out of VS, a leader who was till then their darling during in-fighting in CPM. All LDF candidates began begging VS for campaign stop in their constituencies. LDF posters contained only the picture of VS.
Thus the cake-walk every one expected became a photo-finish victory for UDF and the VS factor did play very important role in it.
Many of his critics believe that VS is not suitable to be a leader of a disciplined cadre party like CPM. They feel that he is a power hungry politician who will stab his colleague’s back to gain some brownie points.They think that everything about VS is just a show for the media.
My answer is this.
CPM now is not a revolutionary Party but only a political party trying to get power by winning democratic elections.Along with disciplined cadres it needs leaders who can understand the wishes of the people and who can get support of neutrals.It also needs leaders who can use the media to its advantage. VS thus has only helped CPM to become more popular.
VS’s LDF has lost the election but he will never stop being aggressive is evident from his Press Conference after resigning from the CM’s post about the forthcoming UDF ministry:
“Under no circumstances should those with a tainted track record such as the corrupt and womanisers be thrust upon the people of Kerala,” Achuthanandan told reporters who had gathered at his official residence here Saturday afternoon.
Asked to elaborate on whether he was pointing to people like Indian Union Muslim League leader P.K. Kunhalikutty, who is alleged to be involved in the Kozhikode ice cream sex case scandal, he shot back saying, “I have already said what I wanted to say.”
The lessons VS taught the CPM leadership can be concluded like this.
1. Aspirations of the public is more important than the wishes of Party leadership
2. Listen to the people’s grievances not to that of the Party members alone.
3 If you want the people to believe you are against Corruption/injustice you should not tolerate it in your Party
4.Not only you should be against injustice,but every one should know you are like that.
5. No point in criticising the media.One should learn to utilise it to one’s advantage.
6. Timing is as important in politics as in cricket.If you wait for the Politburo decision you would have lost the opportunity
7.Be aggressive in your attack and never defend the indefensible just because it is the Party line.
Mamata Banerjee in her own also taught CPM the same lessons in Bengal
Actually CPM needs a VS in its central leadership and in Bengal to turn the tide in its favour.