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It happens only in Kerala
October 12, 2004
Visiting Kerala is like taking a trip on a time-machine, especially if you meet as I did friends of a Leftist persuasion. The Australian tour of India, the Maharashtra assembly elections, and the US presidential elections (which I hope to see from closer quarters) may dominate the attention of the rest of India, but only in Kerala could one expect to find so many people solemnly discussing Veliyam Bhargavan's latest pronouncement.
For the benefit of those readers who are not acquainted with the intricacies of Kerala's politics, I should explain that Veliyam Bhargavan is the state secretary of the Kerala unit of the CPI. He is known for his, shall we say, forthright views. He has, for instance, recently declared that the state does not need the advanced state express highway when the government can convert the existing National Highway between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod to four lanes. (I am not saying he is wrong I haven't studied the issue in any detail but Bhargavan is probably one of the few politicians from any party, in any state who would publicly argue against a construction project.)
Veliyam Bhargavan's most recent brainwave, however, concerns an issue so arcane and so far removed from the concerns of ordinary citizens that it beats anything else he has said recently. Because he has now demanded that 'Big Brother' CPI-M should formally withdraw its censure of the CPI as a 'revisionist' organisation.
'Revisionist', you must understand, is one of the most vile abuses that one Leftist may hurl at another. Understood literally, it means the questioning of, and attempts to change, the existing beliefs of a political or religious system. That does not sound too bad for political groups which describe themselves as 'radical' and 'revolutionary' both being high praise in the Communist world. But 'revisionist' is one of those code words which take on a completely different meaning when it emerges out of a Marxist mouth; it indicates that a Comrade is trying to question the sacred doctrines of the Left itself!
(The Left Front partners worked themselves up into a frenzy last fortnight over the issue of 'foreign' experts on various consultative committees set up by the Planning Commission. They were not foreigners, but Indians who happened to be working for global organisations. But isn't there an element of hypocrisy in groups that venerate the likes of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, V I Lenin, and Chairman Mao abusing 'foreign' experts? Unless, of course, our home-grown Marxists want us to believe that these gentlemen have, posthumously, accepted Indian citizenship!)
To return to Bhargavan, the charge of 'revisionism' was flung at the parent party by the CPI-M soon after the Emergency. The CPI had committed the 'sin' of being in partnership with Indira Gandhi through that dark period. (The Congress and the CPI had fought the 1971 general election together and the alliance continued.) A vindictive CPI-M leadership demanded that the CPI apologise for its behaviour before it was taken back into the Left Front fold. The parent party had to eat humble pie.
All this happened well over a quarter of a century ago, but we must remember that the men -- there are few women -- who make up the Politburos of the CPI and the CPI-M are of a venerable age. (Several are in their seventies, some in their eighties.) So it is not surprising perhaps that their memories dwell fondly to a time when they were in their (relatively) sprightly fifties.
Bhargavan's argument is that 'Big Brother' should withdraw its old charge since the CPI-M is now the Congress' largest supporter in the Lok Sabha, the crime committed by the CPI all those years ago.
This, I presume, will be the preliminary for Bhargavan's cherished project of reuniting the two parties.
I have two reactions to this. First, Bhargavan's reasoning is pure nonsense! I have no particular liking for the Congress, but Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh are worlds removed from the imperious duo of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi who ruled India in the Emergency. Supporting a democratically-elected government and backing a prime minister unseated by a high court judgment are two different things.
My second reaction? Well, isn't it refreshing that there are still some politicians around who care so much about an obscure matter of principle? The CPI-M shouldn't apologise, but it should embrace that old curmudgeon Veliyam Bhargavan.
T V R Shenoy