CPM rout: End of road for veteran leaders in Kerala?

Political future looks bleak for some party leaders even as the introspection in the coming days is set to be crucial for others.
T M Thomas Isaac
T M Thomas Isaac

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The CPM’s second consecutive big defeat in the Lok Sabha elections has put question marks over the future of veteran leaders. The CPM had fielded 15 candidates ranging from a politburo member to state committee members and sitting MLAs, besides its lone sitting MP, on the party symbol. However, voters rejected everyone except Minister K Radhakrishnan.

The defeats of politburo member A Vijayaraghavan, central committee members K K Shailaja, Elamaram Kareem and T M Thomas Isaac, state committee members M V Jayarajan and M V Balakrishnan, MLAs M Mukesh and V Joy, ex-minister C Raveendranath, former MP Joice George, and sitting MP A M Ariff had shocked the leadership.

In the aftermath of the debacle, the political future looks bleak for some leaders even as the introspection in the coming days is set to be crucial for others. There was a strong opinion within the CPM that veteran leaders should be shown the door and new blood given chances.

Right from the start of the candidate selection process, the leadership had said the sole criteria for candidate selection was winnability. However, it is alleged that based on that single criterion many names were pushed into the candidates’ list bypassing opinions from lower committees.

“When actor Mukesh’s name was floating in the party circles, some district-level leaders reportedly tried to suggest a young woman councillor’s name instead. But they were asked to remain silent and warned that if they raised objections and the actor was defeated, they would be held responsible. So, they chose not to speak,” a CPM leader told TNIE.

Mukesh’s performance as an MLA was criticised even within the CPM. Questions are now being raised about the electoral future of Vijayaraghavan, Isaac, Kareem, Raveendranath and Balakrishnan. It was Vijayaraghavan’s anti-woman remark that had destroyed CPM’s chances in Alathur in 2019. In Kasaragod, choosing Balakrishnan without considering the age and health factors was criticised.

“From candidate selection to campaign strategy, CPM’s calculations went wrong,” political analyst Ajith Sreenivasan told TNIE. “CPM took on the role of a ‘karanavar’ (male head of the Malayali family home) in the case of the Muslim minority. The unnecessary usage of slogans like solidarity to Palestine and the anti-CAA rhetoric had alienated the traditional Hindu vote mass from the CPM. On the other hand, Muslims did not see the CPM as their saviour.”

He said the party failed to realise that a major part of the anti-incumbency sentiment was directed at their lone star campaigner Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

“In a seat like Ponnani, which carries religious importance for Muslims, the CPM fielded a Muslim League rebel under the party symbol. His statements against the Panakkad family backfired. In Idukki, Joice was a misfit. The CPM forgot that they were fighting a national election,” Ajith said.

In Kannur and Pathanamthitta too, Jayarajan and Isaac were selected against the opinion within the party.

“In Chalakudy, Raveendranath had reportedly pleaded with the leadership to exclude him from candidature as he was mourning the loss of his brother. But the leadership insisted that he contest,” a CPM leader from Thrissur said.

In Vadakara, the result has shown that Shailaja no longer holds the personal charisma she once had.

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