Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kerala legislative assembly elections - part3

Incidentally, today is the last day for filing nominations to assembly elections. it's a warmer morning in Kochi and it looks like a clear day. I am worried about earth quake getting closer to us. this time in Burma, our immediate neighbour. While we all admire the engineering strenght of Japan in constructing quake proof buildings, we have to be worried about our state of plight. can we even afford a 2.0 quake?? I doubt. In this banana republic where rich and rulers go hand in hand, who cares about the safety of common man??
Things are getting worse in Libya, Yemen and Syria. Are those people really vying for democracy or more of a religious monarchy?? I wish they are vouching for real democracy.
Sensex made a huge rally y'day. Had I followed my instincts to buy DLF, I would have made some margin y'day. but i hardly follow my instincts. I try to be safe all the time (that's the only way a lower middle class man can think) and let go such fortunes with zero regrets. well, I am yet to learn to play this stocks game. I know the rules but I'm always on the side bench (I remember sreesanth, when i said sidebench..but his benching has various other reasons worth writing another blog).I sympathise with South Africa once again but little can be done to reverse the outcome. End of the day, it's all about rising to occasion. I will admire yuvraj singh and suresh raina for that. Else, India would have been the predecessor to South Africa in the exit route.

I did my usual stuff,straying. so back to political parties..I thought, I will write about the rest of the parties in this chapter.

CPI - the soft communists. I think they will lose their relevance soon or already lost it. Earlier, they had leaders of great charm and capacity. Achutha Menon, PKV, MN etc. Today, they are just dutiful servants of CPM. In the last assembly they had 17 MLA s whereas Congress had 24. This is when LDF had a clear upper hand. In the assembly before that when UDF had lion's share, the positions were like this CPI 7, Congress - 63. May be in another 10 years, this party will merge with CPM (?). Having said all this, I should also tell that their new secretary, C K Chandrappan is a gem among the kerala politicians.

Kerala Congress Mani - KCM - is another soft communal (not communist) party in kerala. This party grew up on 2 themes. Christian farmers (that includes planters too) and encroachments. This is the party that popularized "Pattaya Mela" .. you guys know what it is in essence?? First you say, Govt Land is state  asset. never even set your eyes on it. many of us who are scared will listen. but there there are brave men too. they don't listen. they encroach!!! and setup their boundaries on govt land!!!!!!. this could be 2 cents to 100 acres. then they keep on bribing revenue department not to take action on them. after a while, they influence panchayat office and start paying land tax for a land that's not their own. few years will pass by. then UDF will come to power..Mani gets his legacy portfolio, Revenue!! then comes a pattaya mela, in which landless people are given possession of land just enough for a house. along with that, all our bravemen get possession of the property they are holding to. Now everything is legal. you sell it..and find the next piece for grabbing. You all will remember, there was a 100 meter wide road made by encroachers inside mathi kettan national park during Antony's regime in 2001. V S brought it OUT. 100 meters road inside national park!!!! can you believe. many places our National Highway 47 is only 30 meter wide..KCM is an aggressive party. if you go to every highrange in to make things easy, the only district without a high range could be all districts have something that could be called highrange. let's make things more go eastward in any district in kerala. after you climb certain altitude, you will see lots of KL 05 and KL 06 vehicles. be it kasargode, kannur, malappuram, wyanad, palakkad (the northern districts of kerala), you will these vehicles. Forest areas and areas adjacent to forests in the eastern part of kerala are being taken over in a silent revolution by smart people from kottayam and idukki districts. most of them are farmers, most of them have legal land, most of them are highly genuine. but it's an organized mass movement. this movement feeds KCM. while they distance from Chruch as much as they can, ground reality is something else. Cash Crops with zero income tax liabilities make KCM a rich movement. you know what all grow in highrange other than rubber, cardamom and other spices.

BJP - Bharathiya Janata party - The Hindu Soft communals. this party is a joke in kerala where 52% people are hindus. The real problem is not the ego between (27% and 14% strong communities). The real problem is half of the hindus in kerala think beyond religion and are more inclined to political ideologies. the other half is still living in the byegone era of castiesm. they prefer a  non hindu over a hindu from another community.  That explains why BJP can't open an account in kerala. but then Congress is all determined to help them!! In recent years, many of my educated hindu friends who were followers of congress tell me, they are switching to BJP. but fortunately, many of these guys are working in other states and don't have enough passion to come to kerala and cast their vote. if they had, it would have reflected in the numbers. If CONG continue to give people an impression that they are more than happy to succumb to minority lobbying, BJP has some hope. otherwise, they might have to play the money game here. may be they will soon try it out. other problem with BJP is they aren't favorites for switching leaders. if they could manage to pull few frustrated leaders (with some base) from congress and marxist (if they are non hindus nothing like that), they can try their luck with higher probability in electoral drama.

IUML - Indian Union Muslim League. This is the most prominent party in North Kerala, especially in malappuram dist. they will contest in 12 out of 16 there. They are the soft muslim communals. Contributions of IUML to secular kerala can never be overlooked. But in these years, IUML underwent extreme transformation and got reduced to a consortium of rich muslims (business men and others) with wrested interests. their presence in Union Ministry helped many overseas stake holders protect and enhance their virtual empires. big real estate developers also felt IUML is the best place. Scandals about their top leadership also shook the party and so did young men with more staunch views on religious identity. the biggest crisis IUML might be facing is the drifting of muslim youth to parties that advocate for conversative islamic societies. PDP, SDPI and Jamat-e-islami have all taken away cadres from IUML. Recent prominent addition to IUML is another rich man who has significant influence in 2-3 constitutiencies in malappuram. he fought neck to neck with IUML for 15 years only to realize that he is a better fit there :-).

Kerala Congress B - KCB. this is another soft hindu communal party. It's chairman is a director board member of NSS and it's mostly a family affair. Only 2 MLA s are father and son and I don't think they will change it anytime by themselves. the logic is simple. Revenue to run the party is generated by father and son. If Cong and Communist Party sit together for 15 minutes and make a decision for the welfare this state, this party will cease to exist to loot the public exchequer. Though they are very weak, they get the most prominent portfolios as their family asset in UDF governments - Transport (one of the most corrupt departments in kerala). their influence in UDF leadership might also lead to some fair share of revenue here and there???. In that meeting between Cong and CPM, the following parties can be a part of history - KCB, KCJ, JSS, CMP,KCT, JDS and JDU. together they hold around 23 seats which can be liberated for direct fight between INC and CPM. Also, that will make atleast 8-10 corrupt leaders irrelevant.

KCJ - Kerala Congress Jacob, another soft christian communalist.
KCT - Kerala Congress Thomas - P C Thomas is the man who played wrong cards. from union minister who defeated both UDF and LDF, he plunged too deep. May be we'll see his comeback too. Another soft christian communalist party.

PDP - People's Democratic Party, a soft communal party(muslim). Not in so past as in past, this party almost gave a feeling that the entire muslim population in kerala is with them. that would have made them a natural candidate for atleast 40 seats in 140 seat assembly. their mercurial leader, Abdul Nassar Madani after his release from prison after being kept behind the bars for almost a decade on terrorist charges, went on a spree as a changed man aligned with democratic secularism. He caught attention of almost everyone in the state and majority believed his transformation. He decided to test political waters and LDF saw him as the apostle they were looking for to appease muslim vote banks. In the clash of muslim ideals at Ponnani where both sides forgot a sizable minority, the softer side won. but fate had something else in store for Madani. He got booked again on conspiracy charges. In a high voltage drama at his fort in kollam, where some skeptics predicted an armed conflict, he peacefully co-operated with law enforcement agencies. without Madani, PDP is a clueless herd. But they still enjoy confidence of a sizable minority among muslims. their secular notions are day dreams.

CMP and JSS - I'm afraid they themselves know what their political ideologies are? they are more like 2 private companies lead/funded by founders themselves. few board/corporations 'alloted' to them by UDF, help them breathe easy once every 5 years.

SDPI - is the prominent hard communals. they shot to fame with the "kaivettu" (severing of hand of a college professor) episode. that incident helped them terrify almost all middleclass people in kerala. I am sure they will make political milege in days to come.

Jamat-e-Islami - another hard communal (not by their actions so far but by their very idea of islamic nation). don't think they have any significant follower base.

DHRM - hard communals. they shot to fame with indiscriminate killings (Killing a stranger whom you see on road for no apparent reason) accounted to them. Kerala has sizable dalit population (~12% of total population, now that makes it around 4 million in number) and if mass consolidation happens, they are an unavoidable political force.

Rest of the parties are too small/irrelevant to discuss..

With this I conclude, this episode as well as the coverage of political parties.. Next episode onwards, i want to publish another 3 before April 13, I will focus on the civic issues in kerala.

Best Regards,
Sudheer M
I hope some of you are reading it. in case you do, please leave a comment so that I can be happy :-).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kerala Legislative Assembly Elections - Part2 - Political Parties..

I thought I'll dedicate a part or two for the prime players in this whole thing, political parties. Off late, Kerala is witnessing both birth of new ideologies at regular intervals and merger of erstwhile opponents. "There are no permanent opponents in Politics" is the most famous quote from one of those 'single hero' parties. Let's start analyzing the major parties in the order of their strength.

Before that, some background facts!!

I feel there are only 3 major socialist-secular-nationalist parties in Kerala- CPM (communist party of India, Marxist), INC(Indian National Congress) and CPI (Communist Part of India).  of the 3, CPM's nationalist outlook is still vague. I think they feel more associated with China & Cuba than with Karnataka & Gujarat.
The minor socialist-secular-nationalists are the the old Janata Party followers (i lost count of their factions in kerala, I think 3-4 is a decent guess).
JSS (Janathipathya sahakarana Sangham), followers of K R Gouriyamma, the legendary ex-communist.
CMP (Communist Marxist Party), followers of M V Raghavan, another mercurial ex-communist

Rest of parties in Kerala are Communal by nature (Communal and fascist are 2 words with entirely different meanings but in Kerala these 2 terms are used as synonyms in loose terms). They could be divided into Soft and Hard Communal parties..

Soft Communals are  - IUML (Indian Union Muslim League), KCM (Kerala Congress Mani), BJP (Bharathiya Janatha Party - now this is going to irk quite a few guys. but I still believe BJP is by and large a soft communal party. some leaders are exceptions ), KCB (Kerala Congress Balakrishna Pillai - I termed this party as communal because, Balakrishna Pillai recently commented that the support from his community is more valuable for him than anything else and that community isn't his voters but NSS).

Hard Communals are - SDPI (Socialist Democratic Party of India), PDP (People's Democratic Party) and DHRM (Dalit Human Rights Movement).

Demographic distribution of Kerala indicate that around 70% of people are from backward communities. (I included whole of muslim population, latin catholics, ezhava community and all other communities classified as backward. Since Creamy Layer isn't strictly enforced and income certificate of your choice is the most easily "procurable govt authorization", I think this is a reasonable hypothesis).  if you exclude the 10% from this pie as not eligible for assistance on financial ground/ not applying for assistance on ethical ground, 60% is relying on assistance from government in one form or another. That's a significant chunk and that could explain why sometimes govt comes up with favoring policies. end of the day, it's all about vote bank politics.

Of all the parties mentioned above, CPM is the most popular party in kerala. Until very recently, CPM was focusing on the 70% of chunk (backward classes) for their electoral wins. it was considered the only choice for Marginalized, oppressed, poor and needy. To a greater extent, this claim stands true since early communist governments did a lot to assist the needy. even now, CPM insists it's cadres to ensure all govt. benefits are reaching everyone in a religious manner. Also, it conducts periodic check on what schemes can be applied to it's supporters and ensure all social welfare schemes are predominantly benefitting it's supporters first !! . What I personally don't like about this periodic check are 2 things. 1. if they someone not loyal to them is getting benefits, they make an honest attempt to stop it (to apply some pressure to switch sides) 2. if possible, remove that family from the voter's list itself so that they aren't a menance any more. (((Lots of wonders can happen if you can manipulate the voter's list a bit. the whole concept of voter's list via Ward itself is ridiculous. there should be a single voter's list for a state. that will help to avoid multiple voting, the most common phenomenon in kerala. Also, ink isn't a good way to prevent multiple voting. I wish Aadhar or UID will stop multi voting. not that it will free up democracy of all the evils but just one less.  ))))
if you  analyze the supporters of CPM, few interesting aspects will stand tall. Most of the CPM supporters, will be direct beneficiaries of govt. some broad classifications include either a Civil Services Employee, or a co operative sector worker, beneficiaries of govt schemes, employee in one of those corporation/boards, or beneficiary of support in various forms including reservations. Police force, Numerous Boards, Corporations, Co-operative societies, Govt Supported firms, almost all temporary employement positions with govt are the monopoly of CPM supporters.

In last decade, CPM management ( I prefer to call CPM a corporate rather than a party) woke up to the realities of neo liberalism that's catching up in this country. it took no time for them to add another class to their umbrella of followers; a class which it vehmently fightly until then - Affluent Business Class in Kerala and Middle East!! . Business men embraced the welcome even more warmer since it'll protect their interests,assets and made powerful party's leadership their dinner buddies. "Investors are looking for profits" - proclaimed our industries minister !!. Many other leaders were busy issuing conduct certificates to prominent business icons whose trails are not as transparent as it should have been. this transformation is very clear if you look at grass root levels. who was a  communist leader, 20 years back?? A school teacher, A manual labourer, A union activist, a blue collar worker? utmost an academician?? and who are they seen with?? - almost always the common man.
who is a communist leader now?? A real estate business man? Misc Business Man? Rich man of the province? Enterpreneur?  who are they seen with?? - Business class  and affluent friends invariably.
Today, in party rifts (which are unprecedented in its history) is taking it's toll on the party's popularity. Common man is in dilemma. however the reality is he cannot change his loyality to any better place.

INC is the second popular party in kerala after CPM. The current plight of congress in kerala is pitiable despite the way UPA is treating it. 2 cabinet Ministers, 1 MoS with independent charge, 2 MoS. Kerala never got rewarded this way ever. however, the situation of congress in kerala can be best compared to an inverted pyramid in corporate analogy. it broke apart few times in history due to over crowding of top with "Leaders". Today, this party has more leaders than workers. In many districts, it has even out sourced politics to it's allies in UDF and have no party infrastructure in place. The only reason, Congress is still prominent in kerala is due to UDF. the smaller parties in their ever increasing desire for power (Power is exponentially proportional to Wealth), pushes Congress to power at regular intervals. I think some of the parties have started realizing, Congress is more of a co-ordinator than a real leader in terms of "number of acutual workers".  However a significant chunk of neutral people in state get fed up with communist governments in just one term and "force" congress to be in power once in every decade. Congress, with it's characteristic humbleness accepts the "burden". If CPM leadership of this state is any humble, imaginative and less arrogant, this state would have been a West Bengal much before. While Communists can be best explained by the slogan, "Party First, People Next", Congress fits the best for the slogan "Wealth Only and Always". Few leaders have made Congress their family affair and through the best explained term of "Groupism", they ensured any popular leader outside their "Syndicate" has no survival. (best e.g. is V M Sudheeran, the most popular congress leader among public but not within the party). INC was traditionally supported by majority of so called minorities (they form 48% total population). but off late, KCM, IUML, SDPI, PDP and almost every other party made inroads to this vote bank. Congress, with it's lethargic and sagging heavy weight top leadership who is hanging onto their chairs as much as they can lost the vigor and trust of common man. Allies of UDF started getting stronger at the expense of congress and got greedier than ever. In every govt and even in center, they started asking for lion's share and key portfolios. Series of allegations involving allies left congress at the receiving end since the vote banks of allies are not based on political ideologies. So everytime something went wrong, congress took the beating and it kept weakening congress. Today, Congress is literally at the mercy of it's allies. Top Congress Leaders seem to have got into silent pacts with the allies and hence their interests are protected by and large. Net Result : Congress is losing it's infrastructure, young followers and mechanism to reach people at a faster pace. Not so far in future, Congress in kerala will have to deal with the same fate party underwent in UP, Bihar, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Orissa.

I'm planning another section for the rest of the parties.

So, in case you have agreement/disagreement , please share it.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Kerala legislative assembly elections -2011-part1 - Overview..

With another fresh bout around the corner, i thought it's worth starting a blog series on the same. My intention is not to spread my ideology as far as i can but to speak loud about few simple thoughts that's lingering (may in your mind too) for a while, which i feel is overlooked by almost all of us. a typical election blog will focus heavily around political parties, leaders, strategies and incumbency factors and tend to forget the most important constituent of electoral process, the electoral roll and it's mind. Yes, a list with a mind!!!!.

a word or 2 about me!!!

 I have strong political inclinations, views and preferences but I haven't become another blind, deaf (i beg mercy of my unfortunate siblings who are actually differently abled. i used those two words in literal sense ONLY) follower of ideologies and have become of a prisoner of the same. To make it more easy, I might represent that ironical class of voters who would have voted for a Congress Candidate in local body elections, Communist Candidate in Assembly elections and a Muslim League candidate in Parliament elections. and many times it could be a 'frustration vote' rather than a positive one. I think such voters form the 'crucial' factor in any elections.  my opinions are my own views and i will honesty attempt not to hurt anyone else's views while expressing mine. there will not be any explicit reference to any leader (good or bad) but there will be explicit references to events that have occurred in the past. With that let me start..

 Overview !!!

I prefer to take a rationale stand on us. I feel we have a general tendency to discard data and embrace gut feelings. I managed to get some information on our demographic distribution and thought of starting with that.
we, keralites are an ethnic community of  32 million. of that, around 65 percent can vote (~21 million). Broadly classified based on religion we comprise of 52 % Hindus, 27% muslims and 21% x'ians. 65% of us work in service industries and around 28% of us work in agriculture related industries. Our Per Capita income is around 37,000 INR. this figure, clearly endorse a fact, as clear as broad day light. our economic disparity is beyond imagination. all our socialistic notions are farce!!! ours is a 'Money Order' economy thriving on overseas remittance. this has it's own social consequences the most visible being the real estate prices.
 Around ~16.5 million  of our population are females but their participation in income generation is very very low. Only 13.5% participate in earning and that's lowest in this country. isn't it strange??

Good Things 

High literacy rate, low infant mortality, better life span, low birth rate, access to primary education and health care, reasonable public distribution network, high awareness among the poor about social welfare schemes, sense of responsibility among political parties (especially leftists) to ensure people get benefits from social welfare schemes. ever expanding retail markets providing more and more employment at service sector, better communication infrastructure that makes it a great place for human power based industries such as IT, ITES, and education. Better connectivity with other parts of the country and world opens up opportunities in tourism, freight handling and healthcare sector.

Bad Things
Unhealthy political activism used as a cover to escape any productivity improvement measures, lack of infrastructure, poor town planning, lack of development vision, highly corrupt bureaucracy, black money powered economy, no focus on agriculture, no focus on manufacturing, no steps to curb exploitation of state's natural resources, rules that permit easy plundering of state's natural resources, Poor Quality of education, health care, Lack of experience and knowledge among law makers. Lack of development policies based on realities and not on political stunts. 

Burning Issues

Ever increasing inflation, ever increasing oil price, ever increasing commodity price, ever increasing economic disparity, ever increasing black money in system, ever increasing corruption, collapse of law and order, highly corrupt police, judicial system and executive, growing influence of communal forces, deepening division of people based on religion, food security, political instability in middle east that could affect around 3 million keralites directly and its repercussions could be devastating (our Govt is yet to think of a rehabilitation strategy for returning expats), 'development' lobbying to loot state's icons and natural resources (man groves, mineral sand etc)

Above mentioned just indicate the 'state' we are at present. Most people will find more issues that are more relevant to them in addition to these.  with this, let's also try to analyze the two groups involved this process
and their list of concerns..

1. Voters
2. Candidates


I live in this state itself. let me explain things from my perspective and then generalize and extend it to masses. For me the critical concerns are 
1. Living expenses - is beyond our tolerance. state govt. comfortably pass the blame to center.

2. Social Security - if you ever get into an unfortunate incident involving damage/loss of property, accident etc you'll see the true color of Kerala Police. The nexus between law makers and law breakers can't be more evident than this. Police blame it on politicizing of police. but in essence it's the corruption that this force has gone through. Terrorism hasn't yet shown it's true colors in this state. All of us know it's getting stronger and stronger silently but I don't think Govt has any concerns about that. Even Terrorism is looked upon as an opportunity to create vote banks (For and Against it).

3. Corruption - This state might belittle Bihar in this. Uniqueness of kerala's corruption is it's ubiquitousness. almost everyone is either a beneficiary or victim of it. all of us have some access to power and we have no reservations about abusing it to our benefits. govt need to be more transparent and responsible in it's policy implementations and day to day affairs. politicizing day to day activities isn't what democracy demands.

4. Lack of development which directly means lack of opportunities - This state isn't looking forward in terms of opportunity creation. most of the people still believe it's govt's responsibility to create jobs. Investors are looked upon as "wicked profit oriented morons" whereas worker is looked upon as the "crusader of equality, liberty and fraternity". He is devoid of vices whereas investor is devoid of any virtue. Socialism is all about wealth distribution and not opportunity creation here. Is any wealth distributed? all noble investors who are willing to pay taxes and bring white money are shunned off by dark forces using "worker protests" as the best effective cover. the only businesses that seem to be thriving in kerala  are real estate (100% black), Gold(I don't know), hawala (100% black) and financial fraud of almost any degree (from few thousands to crores).

5. Civil Rights - Here organized forces overrun the civil rights of ordinary unorganized weak citizens. whether it's loud noise from a messy neighbor or right to travel violated by a political/religious procession on the National Highway we have no one to complain to. 

I guess you all will have more to add. I just provided an indicative list that could represent our flaring issues. 

Now let's focus on the most esteemed, privileged, powerful class in kerala : Political Leaders. 
While Cinestars enjoy all popularity and media coverage, the real superstars in kerala are a bunch of politicians who are holding onto power for decades all together, defending their crowns in the most fierce of bloodless battle every day. and the wealth amassed??? beyond our wildest of imaginations. take most leaders who are in active politics for last 30 years.. what was their full time jobs? politics. Income - the salaries and incentives they got while holding an office. But wealth amassed will have no co-relation to their earnings. they also make a mockery of the income declaration statements Election Commission ask for. I think if this system is changed, there would be radical reforms. 
Why not Candidature is limited only to people who are given clean chit (if not clean chit, very explicit beyond suspicion proofs on why no clean chit) by income tax department ????  any one want to contest, keep their records clean from the age of 18. any hint of unaccounted wealth, leaves you out. and then the IT department get smart and plug all possible holes in the sieve!!!

Politicians have taken politics as a family run business. With all the wealth garnered, they "generate" followers, popularity and favorable decisions. once they feel they are ageing they bring their kids. they do as much as possible to ensure the 'power' doesn't get distributed among lot of people. they run invisible 'power mafias' that run across political affiliations. they do their best to keep as many people as possible away from elections by frustrating them, giving them no hope. they all collectively strive to prevent any new faces appearing from respective parties. in short, they feel 'entitled' to power and wish to maintain it as their 'exclusivity'. this is more   evident in all parties except CPM. CPM and may be CPI had a change in leadership from time to time. no one grew beyond their parties. But in all other parties, few men have monopolized it for few decades. the saddest fact - all those leaders came up by themselves but once they reached the top instead of making the upward journey smoother for people after them, they just closed those pathways forever to ensure power remains within "their" elite group. They also know people have no option but to choose either them or their so called opponent who are actually their cousins and some cases even partners (in loose terms). so from a politician's stand point, he will look at 

1. whether the communal equations can be converted in his favor?
2. whether the anti incumbency factor can be converted in his favor?
3. whether the opponents' past actions can be converted in his favor?
4. whether the local situations be converted in his favor?
5. whether his noise\clout\money (organized noise) can help him out?

so with this summary, I conclude this curtain raiser. All of you are most welcome to add your share of suggestions into this. Disagreements are more welcome!!! however at this point, let's not get split based on our political inclinations. let's disagree on facts and figures. Also let's not get too much into our wish lists. I will unveil them soon :-).

Next : Political landscape  LDF, UDF , BJP, SDPI , PDP and others..