Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s 3-hour foray into Kerala politics yesterday turned out to be anti-climactic. He failed to electrify the political air and except for the Communist Party of India (Marxist), no one really felt agitated, including the powerful Muslim organisations in the state.
The tallest of Kerala’s communist leaders V S Achuthanandan, who is an iconic figure for the Ezhava community, is yet to make any statement on the move by the Sivagiri Mutt to invite Modi. VS confined himself to underscoring the oddity of Modi being associated with Sree Narayana Guru.
Curiously, there has been a deafening silence on the part of senior communist leaders who hail from the Ezhava community.
They cannot but be aware of the strong undercurrent of alienation
in the Ezhava community, which formed the backbone of the communist movement in Kerala.
Besides, for Ezhavas, it is extremely difficult to condemn the Sivagiri Mutt. The spiritual bondage is thicker than political ideology.
In the event, did the CPM state leadership overreact? Unfortunately, some intemperate statements were made about the monks at the Sivagiri Mutt. Even assuming that the monks were politically incorrect, such uncouth invectives are unwarranted.
Was it a case of bad nerves or was there a genuine fear that Modi might make inroads into the social base of the communist parties? There are no easy answers.
It now transpires that a clutch of self-styled Ezhava ‘leaders’ manipulated the Sivagiri monks to inviting Modi. Principal amongst them is apparently a local media organisation. There are also persisting rumours that business interests are involved.
Evidently, the state Bharatiya Janata Party leadership decided to overlook the stench in the sub-soil and grabbed the opportunity to hoist the saffron flag at Varkala, which was a bastion of communists.
However, whether the BJP is going to make net electoral gains out of all this in the 2014 poll remains to be seen. For the present, Congress Party seems to be the only winner
To my mind, BJP made an error of judgment by aligning itself with the self-styled creamy layer of the Ezhava community, who claim to represent the community. But then, beggars can’t be choosers. Malayalis have a habit of lending their ear to national figures but casting their votes at the election time on the basis of independent judgment. In the historic 1957 poll for Lok Sabha, Jawaharlal Nehru drew massive crowds in Kerala, which ultimately saw the communists storming into power. Probably, Modi sensed it, too.
He was somewhat ‘off colour’ yesterday. He seemed to be in two minds. Obviously, his ‘development’ plank has few takers in Kerala. Politically, it would have been unwise for Modi to don the OBC hat at this juncture when he hopes to rise above caste and religion.
There was no inspiring ‘message’ in his rambling one-hour speech in Hindi, which was a hotch-potch of musings about Hindu unity. It wasn’t even ’soft’ Hindutva.
If on a scale of 10, Modi stood at eight or nine at the Sri Ram College in Delhi or at the FICCI, he couldn’t have been more than three or four at Sivagiri. There was nothing of that combative tone associated with a ’strong’ leader like Modi.
The point is, Ezhavas are a well-educated community today with the discerning power to make out false coins. They don’t have a herd mentality and each would prefer to interpret Narayana Guru’s teachings on his own. In fact, most of the ‘creamy layer’ lead a decadent lifestyle, which Guru would have found appalling.
Suffice to say, if there is going to be an erosion taking place inevitably in the Ezhava base of the Left parties, the reason for that lies elsewhere. Simply put, the Left parties are taking the Ezhava voters for granted.
After the VS era in Left politics, Ezhavas are going to have a hard time to emotionally bond with the communist parties, especially the new generation with rising aspirations and discerning capacity. They realise that they deserve far better political influence than today.
But the big question is whether the BJP could genuinely represent the Ezhava aspirations and supplant the Left parties. As things stand, it cannot, being an unapologetically upper caste outfit, which is faction-ridden and uninspiring.
To be sure, Modi’s rise within the BJP itself has been a great exception. Arguably, he was speaking for himself when he lamented in his Sivagiri speech
yesterday that the evil of untouchability is persisting in the political sphere in our country.