By K Raveendran


Bengalis and Malayalis have always prided themselves for their so-called ‘intellectual superiority’ and political maturity. Both societies have shared a past that brought them wholesome praise for their achievements in social, cultural and political spheres. The left-leanings of the two societies and their respect for democratic values is  almost legendary. In fact, Kerala has had the unique distinction of voting the world’s first communist ministry to power through the ballot.


The people of Kerala and Bengal never made a secret of their condescending attitude when they heard about rigging and booth capturing in the rest of India, particularly in the Hindi heartland, where such malpractices had become routine.


But fast forward to the current times, both Kerala and Bengal have become the graveyard of democratic values and traditions that they once defended with their lives. Now there is hardly anything that distinguishes them from the rest of India. It is as though the two states are desperate to outdo each other in denigrating their past and matching ‘their kind of democracy’ with its worst forms.


Reports about the conduct of campaigning and polling in the just concluded Lok Sabha elections indicate the abysmal depth to which the two societies have sunk.


In Mamata’s Bengal, for instance, there is zero tolerance for the opposing views, let alone the freedom to practice divergent political activity. The Trinamool government has had no qualms about denying permission for opposition parties to hold rallies and road shows on one pretext or the other.


BJP president Amit Shah was denied permission several times to hold rallies in the state and was not even allowed to land his chopper.  It is a different matter that now she will have to roll out the red carpet to him because he has become the Union home minister. The state government had also turned down requests by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Union minister Smriti Irani to hold election meetings in Kolkata.


The bad blood between TMC and BJP obviously got reflected in different phases of polling, all of which witnessed widespread violence as each party chased away supporters of the other, alleging attempts to rig the poll. The cold war between Mamata and Modi had its shadow even on the swearing ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, which is generally attended by friends and foes alike.


TMC’s scant respect for electoral process was on full show in the 2018 panchayat elections, when a large number of seats were won uncontested by the ruling party as it thwarted attempts by BJP and CPI-M candidates even to file nominations. Even before a single vote was cast, the fate of 34.2 percent seats in the three-tier rural bodies was decided without a contest as TMC was the only party which had candidates in those seats. It is ironic that Mamata Banerjee often speaks in defence of democracy.


Mamata graduated with flying colours from the great CPI-M university that taught its own brand of politics and violence, which she is now using against the communists in good measure.  In a quid pro quo-like situation, the CPI-M is doing in Kerala whatever Mamata has been doing to them in Bengal, and now the radar has been turned to BJP because the Marxists have ceased to be of any consequence.


Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Kannur has become synonymous for whatever was once considered alien to respectable political activity. The so-called ‘party villages’ in the area are out of bounds for anyone other than a CPI-M worker or sympathiser.  Even law enforcement authorities don’t dare to go there. Political murders have become a routine affair and the CPI-M apparently has an elaborate system in place to protect the perpetrators. It is alleged that the party ‘supplies’ the ‘culprits’ to the investigating agencies. When the matter goes to court, the accused mostly escape punishment as the prosecution can’t prove a crime they haven’t committed. The real culprits remain in the background and are ever ready to strike again.


Shocking details have emerged as to how the CPI-M-led ruling Left Front in Kerala manipulated the electoral process, right from the stage of voter registration to the day of polling in the Lok Sabha elections. Opposition UDF has accused the CPI-M of a systematic drive to remove the names of Congress sympathisers from the voters’ list. According to Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, the names were removed en masse, with the help of government officials handpicked by the ruling party for the purpose.


Bringing further embarrassment to the state’s people is the postal ballot scam, under which widespread abuse of the postal ballots by the CPI-M affiliated Police Association, a union-like outfit for police officials, had taken place. State Chief Electoral Officer, who is known to be a stickler for the rules, has ordered a detailed probe into the issue.


The CPI-M leadership has been at logger heads with the Election Commission after its prying eyes landed on several questionable practices indulged in by party workers, including bogus voting, which attracted national attention and brought much embarrassment to the self-styled God’s own country. At one point of time, the CPI-M even threatened to take the chief electoral officer to court for allegedly exceeding his brief.


The degeneration of the Kerala society has spread like cancer to all aspects of life, with some spine-chilling stories of atrocities committed against fellow human beings coming to light. Crimes against women and girls have reached such alarming rates that mothers and parents are scared to let their daughters go out alone. Sometimes, even when accompanied by male relatives or acquaintances, so-called moral policing is baring its fangs, making it another leveller that threatens to neutralise all the state’s positive attributes. (IPA Service)