‘We defeated our party’
A rebel CPM social media platform in Kannur district displayed a statement on June 4 indicating the simmering discontent among party faithfuls against the authoritarian leadership. There is a widespread feeling across party circles that the party is fast becoming a corporate tool under the leadership of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is the last word in the party on key issues.

There was a widespread feeling among cadres at the grassroots that if the present pro-corporate culture of the party leadership continued unchecked, in near future the party would become extinct in the state. The example of West Bengal is loud and clear. The CPM-led coalition ruled West Bengal continuously from 1977-2011. Even with a Congress alliance, CPM failed to win even a single seat in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha election this time. Unlike Bengal, here, each cadre is literate and well-informed and can make decisions and execute them on his own.  There is a fear in the middle levels of the party that Bengal would repeat in Kerala, and that 2024 is an indication of things to come.

P A Muhammed Riyas, son-in-law of Pinarayi, has been portrayed as the second-in-command in the Kerala state cabinet. When the candidates were selected to contest in the 2021 elections, popular faces including Thomas Isaac, former education minister N Raveendranath and former PWD Minister G Sudhakaran, who had proved their mettle in previous LDF ministries, were sidelined citing the need to give space to young blood.

This apart, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself is himself facing charges of corruption as the company run by Veena Vijayan, his daughter, had allegedly received huge sums of money from another tainted company which is under the cloud for its dubious track record in the state.

The silencing of brave leaders who questioned the follies of the party leadership has only created more resentment. The brutal murder of TP Chandrasekharan who had floated a rebel outfit RMP posing a challenge to CPM in Onchiyam, a party citadel in Vadakara Lok Sabha constituency in North Kerala in Kozhikode district in 2012, is still a fresh scar among CPM cadres. The state police during the previous LDF regime had proved beyond doubt that the murder was orchestrated by CPM leaders and carried out by pro-CPM gangsters.

Chandrasekharan was a popular CPM leader with strong linkages at the grassroots across the Malabar region. Post murder, there has been a steady dip in the class and mass organizations of CPM in the region. KK Rema, wife of the slain leader, won from Vadakara legislative constituency in the 2021 elections and continues to be an ardent critic of Vijayan in the state assembly.

Just before the 2024 parliament elections, the Kerala high court confirmed the verdict of the sessions court awarding life imprisonment to the eight accused including three CPM leaders. This likely reminded the disgruntled party faithfuls who voted against former health minister KK Shailaja at Vadakara.

The dark business deals of CPM leaders with saffron powers in the state have been a matter of suppressed discussions in the party corridors for the last many years. Just before the parliament elections, on April 25, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee state resident K Sudhakaran had stirred up a hornet’s nest by saying CPM heavyweight EP Jayarajan who is also the LDF convener in the state was plotting to defect to the BJP. He was in touch with top BJP leadership, he alleged.

Later, BJP leader Sobha Surendran and TG Nandakumar, a controversial middleman who swings business deals, endorsed the allegation saying that EP Jayarajan had discussions with BJP leader Prakash Javadekar, the national in-charge of the party affairs in Kerala. Putting CPM in a tight spot, EP Jayarajan accepted that he had met the BJP leader at the home of his son in Thiruvananthapuram.

At Thrissur where actor Suresh Gopi had a landslide victory, it was the scam at the Karuvannur Co-operative Bank, which had turned the CPM applecart turtle. Initially, it was a ‘Rs 100 crore’ scam but later the amount involved increased many fold as it was revealed bank employees and CPM leaders had availed fraudulent loans

For his untimely revelations, Jayarajan faced public criticism from Vijayan, that too on the day of polling. But by that time the damage was done in the form of protest votes from CPM cadres. Many Muslim voters shifted to UDF as a result. On June 4, Pinarayi Vijayan would have been shocked to find that in his own booth at Dharmadam, BJP had doubled its votes from 53 in 2019 to 114 now.

Also Read: How Modi avoided India Shining by not being Vajpayee

Co-operative bank scams
At Thrissur where actor Suresh Gopi had a landslide victory, it was the scam at the Karuvannur Co-operative Bank, which had turned the CPM applecart turtle. Initially, it was a ‘Rs 100 crore’ scam but later the amount involved increased many fold as it was revealed bank employees and CPM leaders had availed fraudulent loans.

The case was first handed over to the Crime Branch and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also started probing into the scam. Apart from many local CPM leaders, ED questioned minister AC Moideen and PK Biju, MP. The co-operative banks in the state are controlled by CPM and scams have been reported in many of them. With a significant NRI population, It was not a secret that the unaccounted money of NRIs as well as businessmen of Thrissur have been dumped in co-operative banks. At Thrissur district alone, more than 75,000 depositors of four co-operative banks are in trouble as huge funds have been swindled by employees and board members, allegedly with the active connivance of CPM leadership.

Rather than a political shift, the victory of Suresh Gopi at Thrissur was a protest against the anarchy let loose in the cooperative sector by CPM. Even the Christian community, a traditional votebank of the Congress-led UDF, was miffed by the lukewarm attitude of Congress leaders in exposing CPM’s role in cooperative bank scams, with a section of them voting for Gopi.

Will BJP do a TMC?
In this election, BJP came first in 11 out of 140 constituencies in the state, second in nine constituencies and third in 10 assembly constituencies in nine Lok Sabha constituencies with a victory margin of less than 5,000 votes. BJP has performed much better than 2019 in 30 assembly constituencies.

A post-poll survey of Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), released recently, attributes the increase in BJP’s vote share to the slight tilt in demographics. Close to a majority from among the Nairs (45 %) apparently voted for the BJP/NDA alliance. The survey also claims that a section of the powerful Ezhava community, the leading Hindu caste group in Kerala that traditionally supported LDF, has moved towards the BJP (32 %).

CPM supporters, however, confidently say that the Ezhava community will not align with the NDA as their caste principle set by the scholar Sree Narayana Guru was ‘One religion, One god and One Caste’. Even the Ezhava political party, Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS),  launched by Thushar Vellappalli, son of Vellappalli Natesan, the supremo of the SNDP (Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangham) founded by Guru himself, failed to garner the expected vote share in any of the Lok Sabha Constituencies it had fought as an NDA ally.  Even the all-out support of Hindutva forces during the years failed to ensure the success of the alliance.

CPM intelligentsia says that the 2024 phenomenon is only temporary. They say a similar surge happened in 2019 too but in the 2021 polls that followed, the LDF bagged 98 of the 140 assembly constituencies. In 2026 the political combinations and situations would be different as the protest votes from CPM cadres and the vengeance mood of Christian voters in Thrissur may not be there for the BJP to benefit from.

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