Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Developmental conundrum continue to plague left parties, this time in Kerala

NK Bhoopesh | May 31, 2016 6:43 pm Print
The controversy in Kerala about various projects in a way reflects the confusion of left parties in undertaking developmental projects

After emphatic victory, and a fanciful installation, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by Pinarayi Vijayan  in Kerala started going about the business of governance in right right earnest.

In the first  cabinet the decisions government has taken gave the feeling that the Left government is not going to push the neo -liberal policies in the state. But some pronouncements made by the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues points to the fact that the mainstream Left parties are yet to solve the developmental conundrum, which they started facing more starkly after the initiation of neo -liberalisation.

The controversy started when Pinarayi stated that the government will move ahead with the Athirapally hydro-electric project in the Western Ghats. The project has been opposed by the environmentalists and by  some politicians citing different reason. The environmentalists have long claimed that such a project will jeopardise the bio-diversity of the ecologically fragile region.

The politicians and activists who oppose the project claims that the environmental and social impact of the project will be much more than what the stated benefits of the project. The Gadgil Committee- the Western Ghats Ecology Expert panel headed by Prof. Madhav Gadgil has said that “Although most of the tribal dwellings in the area will not be affected by the project, their habitats will certainly be seriously affected” and hence no hydro-electric project should be taken up there.

But CPI(M), which leads the government in the state, has always held that the shortage of power and high tariffs  are hampering industrial growth in the state and every possible way to generate electricity must be explored. The party have always firmly rooted for the project, though the different committees appointed by various governments have rejected the proposal. Taking a jibe at the  at environmentalists who opposed the project, Pinarayi said the concerns only about losing the stunning spectacle of waterfalls would be addressed when the project is under taken.

But the chief minister’s and power ministers statement have not gone down well even with Left sympathisers. Some have even started a social media campaign under the hashtag #Thottupokaruthu (Don’t Touch It).  So far the chief minister has not changed his stand on Athirappally.

Not just Athirapally, Pinarayi has said his government would take up big projects which many experts claim will be detrimental for a state like Kerala. Among his preferred projects are high speed railway corridor connecting Trivandrum and Kasargod, and the widening the National Highway 47, which was stalled after angry protests against land acquisition.


The industries minister has already stated that the government will welcome  multi-nationals who are willing to invest in Kerala. While some term it as pragmatism finally taking over the dogmatic Marxists, others feel that they too are succumbing to the neo-liberal method of development.

A section of CPI(M) leadership seems to be eager to shed the  image of anti- development,  which some right intellectuals and politicians accuse them of.  In doing so, the communists unwittingly subscribe what many call as the ideology of unbridled development which is bereft of social justice – the purported core philosophy of Left parties.

Looking at history it can been said that the main stream Left parties are caught between their ideology and the reality  of working under bourgeois system.

The left government in West Bengal led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reflected this confusion in another way,  when the CPI(M) tried to push the predominantly agrarian state towards industrialisation.

The Singur and Nandigram episodes which toppled the over three decade old left rule in the eastern state was viewed by many political analysts as the reflection of the ideological stalemate of the communist parties having to work under what they calls a bourgeois Constitution.

The limitation of a state government to chart out an all together alternative developmental model has been dealt in detail by the CPI(M) in its different conferences. But practically no solution could not be brought out.

The controversy gaining momentum in Kerala also points to the fact that despite being vocal about carrying out alternative policies the left parties either do not have the confidence in it, or are being enamoured by the type of developmental activity other state government undertakes.

Either way, this is a crisis of holding steadfastly to Left ideologies in the time of neo-liberalism, where nothing else, other than capital  matters.  Whether they can overcome this crisis by projecting itself a Marxist party and  at the same time being ‘forced’ to practice the mainstream developmental methods, remains to be seen.