LOCAL BODIES ELECTION AND BEYOND:
POSSIBILITIES OF CONSENSES AND DEVELOPMENT.
IIPA Seminar paper- presented on 05-12-2015 in the Anchal College Seminar hall as inaugural lecture.
Kerala culture over its centuries of history is one of compromise and consensus. The historical vein of its Politics since the formation of the Kerala State has two veins: socio-political-economic one up-man ship of religious oriented communities and conflictive politics in day-to-day encounters of the two political coalitions LDF and UDF. The recent LSG elections has projected a new fighter into the arena ; the BJP augmenting its strength by the offer of support by Sri Vellappalli Natesan’s BGDS claiming adherence of the entire Ezhava community, KPMS and other dalits. This new contender may bring a compromise of the two former warring LDF & UDF to project a joint programme and platform. Possibilities of Development will continue to be bleak as long as the conflictive politics exist. In other words, Development will be speedy only when the political parties join to put a common front against all opposing caucuses and hindrances as in the neighbouring States.
Kerala, God’s own country, is famous for compromises, fusion of cultures, races, languages, religions, beliefs and new ideas that creep into its geographical area. The native believers of “nature –gods” compromised with the Aryan personified gods, Rama-Vishnu-Maheswara trio and their Ramayana, Mahabharatha stories; just as the Buddhists, Jains, Egyptians, Romans, Aryans, Cretans, Greeks, Assyrians, Jews and Chinese attracted by our exotic spices traded , mingled, married and fused into our historical milieu.
Consensus even in political ideology is our history. Kerala is the home of coalition Govts. Sri C. Achutha Menon successfully coordinated it in his Govt of 1970-1977. In Kerala, it is difficult for a single party to contest and win even a single seat, because the voter perception is towards voting for a front. It became a model for the rest of the country including the Central Govt.. Kerala politics devolved through two strains of practises of One-upmanship and Conflictive politics.
The Christian community though only 16-17 % of Kerala Population of the state (Along with the powerful Latin community (4.25%).) was getting an upper hand in the society because of Christian Missionaries who came with western colonialism and English education in the 18th century.
Rani Lakshmi Bai appointed Col. Munro, resident representative of the British Empire –as Dewan (1811-1814) of Travancore State. Col. Munro a non- catholic protestant Christian- fascinated by the Syrian Christians wanted to help them. His idea was to make them later adherents of his religion. He supported their Pulikottil Joseph Remban who masterminded English education in the State by starting the Orthodox Theological Seminary (Old Seminary) in 1815. Munro persuaded Rani to give land and money to Remban, who became Malankara Metran in 1815. He soon passed away) . His successors particularly Pulikottil Joseph II Mar Divanasios (Head of the Church for 44 years, 1865-1909)started and encouraged parishes and individuals to start schools all over the Malankara Church.
This education in English medium became a springboard for that community to Govt. employment and entrepreneurship in plantations and SS industries, migration to Ceylon, Malaysia, Burma and even S.Africa in search of employment . This made them (the Syrian Christians) to regain their social superiority – lost during the Portuguese colonialism. They became relatively prosperous and cognisable entity in Kerala politics. They had innumerable Schools, Colleges and health centres in the pre 1956 decades.
The venerable leader of the Nair community (13 % of the population) Sri. Mannathu Padmanbhan preached and persuaded the Nair community to emulate Christians. He started Colleges and hospitals. The formation of the Nair Service Society (NSS) gave them natural leadership in Kerala politics,. With the leadership of Sri Narayana Guru - social and religious reformer- Ezhavas (23%) got the impetus to organise a powerful lobby . This SNDP during the chief minister ship of Sri R. Sankar ventured into starting Colleges and hospitals for one-upmanship in Kerala society and politics. Muslim Community‘s (26%) followed, by starting Muslim Educational Society (MES) and their Colleges and schools. They are now pushing their community to be the topmost in all spheres..Ayyankali’s Pulaya Community also organised their KPMS and are waging for their rightful place in Kerala politics like other smaller communities. This competitive one-upmanship uplifted social awareness and human development index (HDI) of Kerala on the basis of literacy, longevity and per capita income (PCI). one upmanship proved to be a boon in the onward march of Kerala
Kerala Political parties were Indian National Congress (State version merged in) and its splinter group Communist Party. The competitive one-upmanship created many divisions within these two. Now no single party can win even one seat in the elections. Therefore, they coalesce into groups at the time of election and form two opposing fronts UDF and LDF. Once voted to power, parties in each front continue their in fight in each group to get seats in the ministry. .
Since 1970s Politics in Kerala is dominated by two coalition fronts: the Communist Party of India(Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Indian National Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF), alternatively succeeding the ruling coalition in the general five year periodic elections. In the 2011 elections, the constituents of these fronts were as follows.
Indian National League - Supported LDF -Won 1 Seat
· The number of Janathipathya Samrakshana Samithy
CPM is a cadre party. Any who violate its regulations are forced out or liquidated. To retain the ranks and their morale they conduct regular propaganda and virtual meetings, samarams and dharna against real or fake issues. They do it even for outmoded mores of living in the pretext of protecting the livelihood conditions of the working class. Bar license corruption, Sarita- Biju Ramesh Solar case, management- labour issues and corruption of the UDF/ LDF parties are only a few sample issues. . For increasing readership, media of all hues fan the flame and keep the society on toes.
On the other hand, UDF is a loose federation. Aaya Rams and gaya rams even on very silly issues is their nature. Their propaganda machinery is weak and in- fights of the components are frequent. This make it a weak front. Muslim league and one or two Kerala congress groups alone are steady in their support of the front. Small splinter groups in Kerala Congress is still undecided as to whether they are left or right
Corruption in the form of collection for election campaigning is there in both fronts. Candidates have to meet their voters over ten to fifteen lakhs with in 14 to 18 days before the election. Therefore, they resort to all modern expensive methods of campaigning. In LDF, the collection is more centralised than in the UDF where each individual collect funds for his own election dues.
Both fronts appeal to the main vote banks -the lower middle class and the poor. More over each front want to outdo the opposition in offering social development and amelioration programmes so that the political manifesto of both fronts looks alike. Situational exigencies force them to do so. Therefore, Kerala is projected as a state with left oriented politics—whether true or not?
Each front when sitting as the opposition decries the programmes being implemented by the ruling front as useless or being wrongly done or its terms and conditions are detrimental to the society. Their aim is to prevent the ruling front doing it and want them to be postponed so that the credit and peripherals can be reaped when they come into power in the ensuing election.
Because of this conflictive politics, each front when in power try to outdo the previous Government in their promises.. This overdoing has led Kerala to the brink of economic disaster as faced by Mrs. Thatcher (1970-1990) of Conservative party of England in the 1980s It is the in-pouring of remittances of our expatriates from outside and Gulf countries (Rs. 72,680 cr in 2013-14) that keep the bubble of well being in shape.
A third party that emerged in the recent (2015) LSG election in Kerala is the BJP. It had been there in a very low profile. Now it is in power at the centre in Delhi and hence was able to wrench a sizable portion of the vote bank. BJP with militant RSS support is also a cadre party. It is projected as a Hinditua Party with communal oriented programmes. Kerala has a tradition of secular politics and is famous for its communal harmony exemplified by the Hindu Temple, Muslim Mosque and Palayam Christian Church as a tripod in the heart of Trivandrum city. Such sites one can see in many other parts of Kerala. The religious harmony and toleration shown by each in the religious festivals is exemplary and emulatable.The Hindu rulers of the past gave land and money to other communities to put up their worship centres. The emergence of BJP into this harmony and tolerance may create disharmony .Moreover the CPM and militant BJP cadre parties may aggravate the conflictive politics into street clashes and disruption of the famous communal harmony of Kerala..
BJP with Vellappalli Natesan’s new BGDS of the Ezhava Community has created askance in others. With the emergence of this new opposition in the election arena, LDF & UDF having programmes that are more common may suppress their differences to oppose the new enemy. Thus, there can be a consensus to that extant in Kerala Politics.
Yet there is another possibility of a new kind of communal clashes spear headed by Hindus of BJP and non-Hindus of LDF led other communal groups. Still another possibility is that CPM may adopt a new policy of appeasing the Hindu religious oriented communist followers. Religion was taught by communists as opium of the masses to be abhorred. The CPM may now fear that BGDS support of the BJP may attract its Hindu ranks to BJP-BGDS coalition. Therefore, CPM may do a political somersault to appease Hindu ranks by permitting them to actively involve in the religious ceremonies of Hindu temples.
Economic Development is not mere Economic Growth in GDP or PCI .Changes in the mores and modes of production; change in the life style of the community must accompany. A typist must transform into a DTP expert, or a net casting angler must become a fish boat hauler of the sea belly or the hoe tiller must turn up as driver of a tractor or combine harvester. Such changes will not only increase phenomenally his income but also change the life style. That is Economic Development
Therefore, Economic Development involves change from the old worldly traditional cumbersome and less productive to modern mechanised highly productive processes leading to much higher income. It is true that the typist has to undergo a short course in DTP or the angler learns boat driving and hauling the net in the sea etc. This type of change is the essence of Economic Development. Those who oppose this change on whatever pretext or ideology are against Eco. Development..
When a farmer first introduced tractor tilling in Chathankery Puncha (upper Kuttanad, Kerala) in the 1950s , there was a clash between the supporters and opposers of change. One was beaten up and killed. When computer was introduced in the Govt Secretariat Trivandrum, there was strikes and samaram by one party. They were trying to obstruct Economic Development. They were like the Ludite revolutionaries (1811-1816), of England in the beginning of Industrial revolution. (( Ned Lud opposed technological changes. His group went around and destroyed newly introduced mechanical looms)) Those who oppose technological changes and changes in traditional life styles pull back onward march of humanity to improved and better life patterns. History prove that it is the technological revolution like invention of steam power, of electricity, of information technology, of nano mechanics that made economic growth and modern civilisation possible.
Now the Vizhingam harbour constructions are being launched. Leaders of the coastal people oppose it on the ground that they will lose their employment and life style. If that community and we want to reap the benefits of that mega project we have to change from our former life style to new like sewerages, transport of goods, handling the containers and earn a much higher income. Changes in technology create temporary unemployment for a few and create millions on new types of employment. Society benefit by many fold increase in jobs and income .Opponents to changes will enter into history as the Ludite revolutionaries of 21st century. It is this attitude and the conflictive politics that made Kerala to be 25 years behind the advanced States in India.
It is not ideological differences between the LDF & UDF that stall the economic development. The one-upmanship competition prompts them to oppose any project or programme of the ruling front and give imaginative idealistic unworkable projects and programme promises. They include them in the ensuing election manifesto and electioneering propaganda. Thus, ongoing projects are stalled. Once the same opposition win the election and are in power, they try to undertake the same projects they opposed; they implement and reap the benefits. The conflictive politics of Kerala has a twofold aim:1. Defeat the ruling party,2. Reap, and collect the benefits and advantages to themselves. No political coalition is exempt from this strategy. The mega projects get delayed for decades and are executed over a long period at phenomenally exorbitant cost over the years. In most other Indian states electioneering contests of political parties end with election. When development of the state is on stake, they join to make the project completed successfully and within time. No wonder that Chennai, Maharashtra, Gujarat Punjab etc .are far ahead of Kerala in implementation of infrastructure projects.
In conclusion it can be said that despite the very high HDI , literacy, knowledge ability, communal harmony and extremely suitable environment and educated labour availability, quick economic development of Kerala is doubtful. The conflictive politics has the other side. It may bring some sort of consensus between the warring LDF & UDF to fight the communal agenda of the BJP and .Natesan’s BGDS.