Thursday, September 20, 2007

Last chance to save Achuthanandan government

Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan has charged a section of the Kerala media with trying to destroy his party. Recently he said an attempt was also being made to create the impression that the earlier leaders were great and the present ones are bad. The self-esteem discernible in his suggestion that the party still has a sparkling row of leaders is admirable. However, leadership quality is not something that can be validated through self-certification.

It is well known that has been a decline in the society as a whole. People in different walks of life, who make truthful evaluations, have acknowledged that this decline is evident in their fields of activity too. Among them are politicians. There is no reason to believe that CPI (M) ranks and the general public share the view that the party is an exception. The party had admitted that many long-time members and candidates for membership have deserted it in recent years. This is indicative of dissatisfaction in its ranks about its present course.

Jawaharlal Nehru once explained how the generation of freedom-fighters acquired greatness. They were all ordinary people, he said, but they worked for a noble cause, and that made them great. The greatness of the early Communist leaders can also be explained in this manner. The society saw them as persons working for the noble cause of building a just order.

What political parties do today, directly and through their affiliates, cannot be seen as contributions to any noble cause. All their activities are aimed at seizing or retaining power. In the normal course, such activities do not produce great leaders.

Some time ago, while evaluating the changes that came about in Kerala in the years of coalition politics, I noticed that every successive government was worse than the previous one. The United Democratic Front was in power when I recorded this observation. That government went out after a performance that was worse than its predecessor’s. Now a question arises in my mind: can the Left Democratic Front government break the jinx?

For two or three decades the two fronts have been voted to power alternately. But the last change of government was not a routine one. V. S. Achuthanandan’s identification with many popular causes as Leader of the Opposition for five years had led many people to believe that he could provide a different kind of administration. That was why when an attempt was made to deny him the chief ministership some people belonging to the party and possibly many more who do not belong to the party came out to demonstrate their support for him. Although Pinarayi Vijayan said demonstrations could not influence party decision, the central leadership showed readiness to take into account the popular sentiments.

The people’s hopes about the administration dimmed in the first year. The party leadership’s main agenda during this period was to circumscribe the official leadership, which it had to accept against its wishes. The struggle between the two factions hurt the administration’s image. But, at the time of the first anniversary, there was dramatic shift in the situation. The bold initiative to remove the Munnar encroachments and the conclusion of the Smart City agreement came to the government’s rescue for the time being.

Concerted action by the leaderships of the two Communist parties has aborted the Munnar demolitions. Since the task of setting up Smart City now rests primarily on the Dubai authorities, it will presumably go through. But that is not enough to save this government. Within a year, two ministers belonging to a small constituent of the LDF had to quit under a cloud. Now the Opposition has turned against ministers belonging to the major constituents. The parties are engaged in efforts to save their ministers.

This government cannot be saved by saving the ministers concerned. So far no member of this administration has been able to gain recognition as a good minister. At the same time, the parties say they are satisfied with the ministers’ performance. Apparently, although the ministers have not been successful in addressing the people’s problems, they are meeting the party’s needs.

The CPI (M), which heads the LDF, has to take the initiative to save the government. The party’s branch-level conferences, which are now taking place, provide the members with the last opportunity to impress upon the leadership the need to act. When the next conferences come, three years hence, it will be too late.

Adapted from column “Nerkkazhcha” appearing in Kerala Kaumudi of September 20, 2007.

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