Pinarayi Vijayan | Photo: Mathrubhumi
On 30th May, the eve before the Thrikkakara by-election, a friend called me on my phone. He has been a fellow traveller of the Left Front all these years and has never voted for any candidate other than the left in his life. He wanted to know the pulse of the by-election. During the conversation, he revealed an inner thought that turned out to be insightful and intuitive. This is what he said: ''If I were a voter in Thrikkakara, I would have voted for Uma Thomas.'' I couldn't hide my surprise. ''Of all the people, you? How come that you are changing your political stand for the first time?'' His response was somewhat revealing! ''This is not a by-election that is going to change the future of neither CPM nor this government. CPM has a very comfortable majority of 99 seats in the assembly. Despite that CPM has turned this election into a high voltage campaign just because of the vested interests of the party leadership.''
What made CPM leadership take such a stand that even some of its close associates find repulsive? It is nothing other than the SilverLine project. The party leadership was obsessed with the idea that if Thrikkakara could be captured that would be the green signal for SilverLine. The reading was that a victory in Thrikkakara will be the best defence for the grand gala project of the Pinarayi Govt. This was a move that negated the spirit behind the protests against the Silverline project. Any such project necessitates a detailed social, economic and environmental impact assessment. But as far as the Silverline project was concerned, the political decision came first. That's why the CM declared that the project would be implemented come what may. The huge shadow of crony capitalists and the real estate lobby over the SilverLine project has been very much visible.
The Pinarayi Govt saw Thrikkakara as the panacea for all these troubling questions. That was the beginning of the move to capture Thrikkakara by hook or by crook. The candidature of Arun Kumar, proposed by the CPM district committee, was undermined in no time. The district committee was totally in the dark as to who was going to replace Arun Kumar. And then, there appeared Dr Jo Joseph, the lamb of God, sorry, the chosen lamb of the CPM state leadership. And it is a matter of intense irony that eventually he became the sacrificial goat of the Pinarayi Govt. The candidature of Dr Jo Joseph, the cardiologist who works at the Lisie hospital, one of the leading health care centres under the auspices of the Syro Malabar Church, was announced in the august presence of the priest who heads the healthcare institution.
Of course, there was politics in this. But whose politics was it? The criticism was that it was not the politics of the left. The critics pointed out that it was the politics of compromise and adjustment. It was this resentment that was there in the words of my friend who was ready to cast his vote for the Congress candidate. It is this anger that is reflected in the verdict of the people in Thrikkakara.
There was no need for CPM to burn its fingers in Thrikkakara like this. CPM should have fought a grand political battle in Thrikkakara. The whole nation has been witnessing disturbing scenarios of communal polarization. The anti-social forces are out in the street to disrupt communal harmony and peace. They want a divided India. Persons like PC George are adding fuel to these divisive powers by offering the poisoned chalice. CPM should have seen the by-election as a great opportunity to fight the communal forces. But that didn't happen. On the other hand, the party simply walked into the trap set by these communal elements, in the belief that the more the water is muddied, the bigger will be its vote share.
It doesn't seem that the victory of Uma Thomas is the reflection of the voters' overflowing affection towards Congress. The last year has not witnessed any miraculous efforts from Congress to earn such profound support from the people. The Chintan Shivir at Udaipur was a flop. It has not kindled any new hope for the party. That is why one is compelled to make it clear that the Thrikkakara outcome is more of an anti-CPM stand by the voters. It is a vote against the CPM government's policies rather than a stamp of approval for the Kerala unit of Congress.
The political sense and sensibility of the Keralites can not be won over by the intense campaign of the CM and his colleagues in the constituency. KK Rema, the rebel leader, got elected in Vadakara, the CPM bastion, in the last election, due to this unflinching political consciousness of the people. E. Sreedharan, the metro man, suffered a stunning defeat in Palakkad due to the same political conviction. Of course, the image of Uma Thomas must be factored in this assessment. UDF couldn't have fielded a better candidate than Uma. Within a couple of days after kicking off the campaign, she proved beyond doubt that she was not a mere shadow of PT Thomas, her late husband. The voters of Thrikkakara, who could differentiate chaff from wheat cast their franchise with the clinical precision of a surgeon.
It should be celebration time for Congress. But the party must realise that the will of the people can never be taken for granted. If CPM had won Thrikkakara that would have rattled the Congress to the core. No doubt, this is a great moment for the party. VD Satheesan and K Sudhakaran, the frontline leaders can hold their heads high. The grand victory has reinvigorated the party substantially and given the much-needed booster to wage the upcoming battles with a lot of confidence. But the party must realise that Thrikkakara is not Kerala and 2022 won't be 2024. It will be foolish to think that CPM will be cowed down by Thrikkakara. If the comrades rise to the occasion and grasp the message from Thrikkakara properly then the next round of battle for the Lok Sabha constituencies in 2024 won't be that easy for Congress.
Another profound lesson from Thrikkakara is for persons like PC George. How beautifully has the constituency shown the way to reject poisoned chalices! The precaution and alertness that the people of Thrikkakara have shown must come as a timely warning and wake up call to our mainstream political parties that waver before the anti-social elements determined to destroy the democratic foundations of Kerala.
It's not for nothing that the Indian Constitution proclaims 'We, the people.' The people are the beauty and strength of Indian democracy. It was the marginalised, illiterate people of North India, who regained democracy when all the democratic institutions were undermined during the emergency. Speaking truth to power is a fundamental principle of democracy. Thrikkakara has done precisely that. The regimes must not be led by arrogance and hubris. Thrikkakara reminds the Pinarayi Govt of the need to be humble. ''Please, bow a little and look at the downtrodden and listen to their grievances with patience and empathy." Whoever has ears let them hear and whoever has eyes let them see!