The issue of allowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple cannot be seen as a determinant factor in the Left’s debacle in Kerala, said Dalit thinker Sunny M Kapikkad who has been at the forefront of the gender equality movement.
He belongs to a group which, following the Supreme Court verdict allowing women’s entry into Sabarimala, has been instrumental in facilitating the same.
Talking to The Lede in an exclusive interview, Kapikkad, whose speeches on constitutional rights and gender equality went viral online, said that more than Sabarimala, the lack of a political agenda, weak candidates and the Left party’s inhumane attitude towards violence have led to its debacle in the general polls.
In the 2019 general elections, Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) could win only one Parliament seat out the total 20 seats in the state.
All other 19 seats were won by the Indian National Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).
Following the Kerala poll results, there were allegations from different corners that CPM suffered this setback only because they mishandled the Sabarimala issue.
“What kind of political agenda do they have. They know that they are remaining only in Kerala. At least then, they should have realised what is happening on the ground and set a political agenda to win the trust of people. They still lack a long-term plan like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has. The BJP saw the Sabarimala issue as a golden opportunity and worked on it. They even flew in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and their national leaders for rallies here to mobilise votes,” Sunny Kapikkad said.
Kerala BJP state president P Sreedharan Pillai had said in November 2018 that the Sabarimala issue was politically a “golden opportunity” for them.
According to Kapikkad, as part of their long-term strategy, the BJP gave Rajya Sabha MP posts for Keralites, one union ministership and also a Governor post to woo voters, which has had a positive impact for them in the elections.
In 2014, BJP in Kerala had secured only 10% percent of total votes polled. But now they have got around 13%.
Kapikkad said that it is not only that the CPM failed in understanding the Sabarimala issue clearly, they also failed in making it a political campaign for gender equality and take it forward to become an egalitarian society.
Sunny Kapikkad, who was working actively with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in building up a New Kerala which will respect gender quality and constitutional rights, said that when Vijayan talked about implementing the Sabarimala verdict, his party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was seen as a bit afraid of hurting the religious sentiments of believers.
“Such doubtful steps failed the movement,” Kapikkad added.
Asked when why there is a ‘theory’ doing the rounds that CPM suffered the loss because they mishandled the Sabarimala issue, Kapikkad said that it is the Nair Service Society (NSS) which is behind this ‘theory’.
“It’s them who are spreading this theory. If their theory is true, why didn’t the BJP candidate K Surendran win the election in Pathanamthitta, which was the epicentre of Sabarimala protests? It is their need to establish it, frighten CPM and make use of it,” Kapikkad said.
If Not Sabarimala, Then What Downed The Left?
As for the real reasons for the Left’s poll debacle, Sunny Kapikkad said that the CPM had candidates like cine actor Innocent, who is unwelcome amidst women due to his abusive statements about them. “P Jayarajan in Vadakara, who is infamous for violence, had created a bad impression among voters,” he added.
In 2017, Innocent had told the media that actresses who are bad may share the bed at will.
And in February 2019, Jayarajan was booked by the CBI in connection with a Muslim League youth worker’s murder in 2012.
“Fielding a candidate like Jayarajan, who is known for violence happened when two youth Congress workers in Kasaragod were reportedly hacked to death by CPM workers in February was a mistake. Instead of condemning the brutal murder, CPM fielded candidates like Jayarajan, which was not accepted by the voters,” Kapikkad said.
As a final reason, he pointed out that people in Kerala might have thought they should add more power to Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party to keep the BJP at bay at the centre.
“Keralites knew that CPM was an ally with Congress in Tamil Nadu. Keralites are not illiterate to understand these paradoxes,” he added.
Meanwhile, a Renaissance group, which was instrumental in getting women into Sabarimala, also said that Sabarimala was not the reason behind Left’s failure in Kerala.
Representing the group, Shreyas Kanaran told The Lede that they voted for the Congress because they wanted to stop the BJP coming to power again in the centre, which eventually resulted in the failure of the Left.
This was the group which facilitated the entry of Kanaka Durga and Bindhu Ammini to Sabarimala during the wee hours of January 02.
“We know that the CPM didn’t have a committed approach towards Sabarimala women entry. They were looking for instant political gains rather than having a long vision on gender equality and upholding constitutional rights,” he said adding that the BJP is spreading the theory that Sabarimala was a main issue for the Left debacle.
Kanaran also said that there was a feeling among voters that the Congress would bag some 200 seats.
“So we thought of voting for Congress as they should not suffer lack of MPs to fight BJP. So we campaigned for them and voted for them,” he added.
The Chief Minister Speaks
Chief Minister Vijayan too has told the media that the Sabarimala factor did not affect their party in the polls.
“The Sabarimala issue has not affected the election. If it had affected, the BJP would have benefitted from it. They claimed that their candidate will win in Pathanamthitta, but nothing happened,” Vijayan said.
“BJP misled the public regarding faith and belief and it should be examined. It was a Supreme Court verdict and no Chief Minister can neglect it. The state government did what any government would do in a similar situation,” he added.
Vijayan said that those who did not want Modi government coming into power voted for Congress anticipating a better future and thus the UDF received more votes.
He also told the media that Rahul came to contest in Wayanad because he was afraid of losing in Amethi.
“We didn’t tell that then because it would have helped the BJP,” he said adding that the debacle in elections will be introspected by all committees including the state committee.
“When asked about changing his style, Vijayan replied that he has no plans to change his style and that the public clearly knows whose style is arrogant.
In 2014, CPM had secured 22% votes and Congress had 31% votes when the total polling was 74%.
And now in 2019, the CPM has got around 26% votes. At the same time, Congress has got 38% when the total polling is around 78%.
The 2019 polls results have the national party status of the CPM at stake. The CPM could win only three seats, one in Kerala and two in Tamil Nadu.
As per the Election Commission’s norms, to be a national party, the party should contest from four states and poll at least 6% or get 2% of the total seats in the Lok Sabha from three states.