Rank opportunism Thursday, Mar 24 2011 

Alphons Kannamthanam and Nitin Gadkari

Alphons Kannamthanam being welcomed into BJP by party president Nitin Gadkari.

Opportunism has found new heights among politicians in Kerala with several of them changing colours like chameleon.

The field has become such that it looks like corporates hunting for talents in a job market with scarcity of talents. However, what the political parties are getting are people with no ideology other than what suits them at the moment.

So, some comparisons with the past are apt. When people like Peter (Punnapra Vayalar uprising) and P. V. Kunhikannan (LDF convenor) were expelled from CPI (M), they ended up in penury unable to lead any other party or movement for ideological or practical reasons. Leaders like P. T. Chacko were unwilling to quit Congress but his followers formed the Kerala Congress. Many of those who split parties at those times were unwilling for major shifts in their stands or professed ideology.

The historical split of Communist party of India only yielded the Communist Party of India (Marxist). When the party of Sreekantan Nair and Baby John, styling itself as Revolutionary Socialist Party, split again and again; that only gave way to comical variants of the RSP. Though Kerala Congresses divided themselves like amoeba, they kept their generic names.  Even M. V. Raghavan and K. R. Gouriamma formed their own parties, even when going for a major shift from their leftist positions.

Individual defections like that of Lonappan Nambadan, T. K. Hamza and Cheriyan Philip were stable and made some sense. However, when it came to the likes of A. P. Abdullakutty, it started look more opportunistic. Still Abdullakutty, or for that matter Manjalamkuzhi Ali, could raise some valid issues. However, when it comes to Alphons Kannamthanam, Jaya Dally and Sindhu Joy, careerist preferences seems to be only major concern. People would have even taken aback by the suddenness with which they have switched loyalties to extreme levels. The question now is how the people could trust these politicians?

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LDF seeing reason Monday, Jun 15 2009 

The LDF is seeing reason. However, it is still far from convinced that the Governor R. S. Gavai did his constitutional duty.

Egged by parties such as the CPI and RSP, the CPI (M) has resolved itself to take the legal course in the SNC Lavalin case win which party State secretary Pinarai Vijayan is the seventh accused. They still say that the Governor acted without authority. According to the CPI (M), the Governor is an official of the Central Government. If it cared to look at the Constitution, it can be seen that the Governor is not an official but a Constitutional authority and Supreme Court verdicts show that he had discretionary powers to allow the prosecution of Mr. Vijayan disregarding the opinion of the Cabinet.

All this shows that the LDF is far from redeeming itself after the crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. Though they acknowledge that the SNC Lavalin case played a role in their losing public support, they are unwilling to change their policies. Instead, they are trying to hoodwink the public by raising technicalities of the Governor’s decision.

It is also notable that a section of the leaders in both the CPI and the RSP is in favour of the line of official faction of the CPI (M). This is suppressing a rebellion by the others.

Chief Minister Achuthanandan’s challenge Wednesday, Aug 13 2008 

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan

Malayalam newspapers are screaming with headlines today about Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan’s challenge to the official leadership of the CPI (M) in the State. It is indeed a challenge; but it would be naïve to believe that the Chief Minister would fight the official leadership now.

The challenge is just a means for the ensnared Chief Minister to show that he is kicking. He has neither the strength nor the will to fight the party. Even if he gathers the will, support in the party is lacking.

But to continue in his post, the Chief Minister has to show that he has some grit. For that, he has to fall back on to narration of his electoral victory and Munnar Mission.

After failure to carry on with almost all his missions professed as Opposition Leader, he has little justification before the people to continue in his post. He lacks administrative experience and ability to lead his Council of Ministers. However, what his opponents lack is the moral force to oust him. So, Kerala will neither have an all out moral fight against the mafias or the amoral pursuit of development at any cost.

LDF celebrates two years of infigting Saturday, May 10 2008 

Kerala SecretariatThe Left Democratic Front government is “celebrating” its second anniversary this month, though there is nothing to celebrate.

The ministry had long lost collective responsibility. The infighting in CPI (M) and fight between the CPI (M) and CPI on issues range from the silly (who gets credit) to the serious (Budget allocations, corruption) have stalled many initiatives of the Government.

The fight had started with the allocation of portfolios to the Ministers itself. The first casualty was perhaps the environment policy. Then the eviction of encroachers at places such as Munnar and Vagamon, administration of the Devaswom Board, Kisansree project, policy on sale of land belonging to the Merchiston estate were hit by differences in the ministry and the Front.

The latest is the stalling of integrated food security project and the competition to buy rice from West Bengal. (It is too early to predict the results of the last adventure— teams sent by the CPI (M) Minister for Cooperation and CPI Minister for Food and Civil Supplies were in West Bengal, scouting for rice. The CPI (M) team is said to have secured some rice through CPI (M) leaders in West Bengal. The fate of team sent by the CPI Minister is not yet known). Not to be behind, the RSP stalled moved to declare protected area in Vembanad lake.

Paddy cultivators need a better deal Thursday, Mar 20 2008 

Paddy fields in Kuttanad, Kerala, IndiaOne should take the Opposition campaign– that paddy in Kuttanad was lost mainly because of refusal of the Kerala State Karshaka Thozhilali Union to allow the farmers to use harvesting machines, with a pinch of salt. Yet there is a grain of truth in that the heavy rains damaged the crop because some farmers could not harvest their crop earlier at some places because of Opposition from KSKTU.

It is perhaps time that the CPI (M) and its Union decided which is its priority– the protection of the jobs of a decreasing number of agriculture workers in Kuttanad or long-term sustenance of paddy cultivation.

What is at stake is clear from the government’s own initiative to enact a law for preserving paddy fields and wetlands. The State’s food security and environment will be jeopardized if paddy fields continued to be filled up. However, the trend cannot be reversed just by legislation. Otherwise, the existing Kerala Land Utilisation Order itself would have achieved the objective. The only was to achieve the objective is to make paddy cultivation remunerative and trouble free. Farmers would not be able to carry on incurring losses as a public service.

If the government go ahead with its plans to punish farmers heavily for changing crops, that would only lead to genuine farmers selling their land. The paddy fields would ultimately land in the hands of the land mafia. They would be able to bribe the politicians and officials and circumvent the law to ultimately turn the fields into housing colonies, tourist centers and what not!

There is little justification for the CPI (M) or its Union in standing in the way of mechanization. The party has virtually embraced capitalism. It is in its scheme of thinks that lesser skilled workers lose jobs to fewer numbers of better skilled workers. Skill upgradation is the key in modern day capitalism. Where that cannot be achieved, safety nets such as the Employment Guarantee Scheme should take care of the workers.

Related: A different Nandigram in Kerala

Chief Minister Achuthanandan’s dilemma Thursday, Feb 14 2008 

Chief Minister of Kerala V. S. AchuthanandanKerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan is a stanch communist, berated by opponents for Stalinist obduracy. His State unit of his party (the Communist Party of India-Marxist) did not want him to be the Chief Minister and hence did not offer him even a seat contest in Assembly polls. Still, he won the seat and Chief Ministership because of popular support.

He was thus elected by the will of the people and not the will of the party. What he heads is a petty bourgeois democratic government. He cannot expect the support of the party that has turned to capitalist ways, converting paddy fields, acquiring properties and running businesses.

To start with, Mr. Achuthanandan tried to rule according to the wishes of the people who elected him. However, soon he has to submit to some of the dictates of the party, which knows that the people have little choice between the ruling and Opposition Fronts (LDF and UDF). This did not win him supporters in the party. The party was systematically working to undermine him as the Chief Minister. Now, he has been totally routed at the party conference.

The choice before him now is to quit bowing to the overwhelming verdict of the party or rule to fulfill the aspirations of the people to people who elected him with an overwhelming vote. But, Achuthanandan is incapable of doing either. He is after all a devout communist who has sworn to obey the dictates of the party. He also lacks the ability and a fitting team to deliver what the people wants. So, he may still choose the middle course to the misfortune of the people of Kerala.

Kerala education sector: into an abyss? Wednesday, Feb 13 2008 

CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat has called for a dialogue between the private managements of educational institutions and the Government. This comes at the end of what may look like a confrontation between the two sides over admissions, appointments, fee structure and other issues connected to the educational institutions. But, what both sides appears to be trying for is a bargain deal.

Education Minister M.A. BabyThe higher education sector virtually became the preserve of the moneyed class as the present and previous government failed to enforce their stated policy that 50 per cent of the seats in self financing colleges would be reserved for students admitted on merit and liable to pay only lower fees (at Government specified rates).

The UDF Government led by A. K. Antony (now the Defence Minister) failed to enter into proper written agreements with the managements. Consequently, they were able to get a series of court orders against differential fee structure in self-financing colleges. Though the LDF Government brought what was described as a “fail safe” legislation, that too was struck down by the courts. One of the problems with both the governments was that there were people within their set ups who wanted to undermine government policies in favour of the managements. All these opposing forces and divisions within the Government and ruling parties created a mess in the higher education sector, causing much hardship to students.

It is also notable the student and youth organisations of the CPI (M) have changed their stands over the years from violent opposition to self financing colleges to conceding the demands of managements. Though the State legislations were struck down by courts, the CPI (M) never pressed the Centre sufficiently for a Central legislation for regulation of the self-financing colleges (though it supports the government). So, the meaning of the call for dialogue becomes obvious. It is call for a deal.

KEAR Report
The State Government has now obtained a committee report on amendments needed to the Kerala Educational Act and Rules. It contains recommendations that are against and in favour of the interests of the school managements, who also control many of the self-financing institutions. The biggest bargain would be on appointments of teachers.

The committee recommends change of teacher-student ratio that would lead to creation of hundreds of posts of teachers. At the same time, it recommends that the appointments should be done though an independent agency. The managements stand to lose millions they collect from the appointees (as so called donations) if the right to appoint staff is taken away from them. But this is something that they could very well retain either through a deal with the government or through intervention of courts. Meanwhile, the government can play to the gallery that they taking on the managements.

Janasree is just not for the people Friday, Feb 8 2008 

Minister for Local Self Government Paloli MohamedkuttyThe CPI (M) has come out strongly against launching of Janasree programme by the Congress-led Union Government. Local Administration Minister Paloli Mohamedkutty has alleged that it would undermine the Kudumbasree programme and create financial anarchy in the microfinance sector.

However, the real reasons for the strident criticism by the Minister are different. The Congress is planning to use the programme to fund non-government organisations and use it for leverage in the coming Lok Sabha elections. There is little doubt that the funds would mostly go to the supporters of the party.

It is, however, to be noted that Congress is trying to emulate the CPI (M) in its own way. The CPI (M) has built up a financial empire consisting of cooperative and other institutions in the control of the party. Employment in those institutions was used to win and reward supporters. Huge sums were raised for business including Government subsidies.

If the trend catches on, political parties of all hues would soon be running financial empires. No doubt that they would eventually assume mafia characteristics. We know that politicians also behind all the so-called land mafia deals in the State.

The trend does not augur well for democracy. The non-political, ordinary people will be exploited by those politico-financial empires. People will be forced to buy services from them as is already happening in the State. If in doubt, just look at the way the land prices have gone up in the State. The political mafia is expanding its grip over land, after gaining control of public sector units and other institutions. Soon, they will do the same in other sectors including micro finance. The communal mafia is also pitching for their share in the cake.

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