In his address to the media in Thiruvananthapuram after the Left won the mandate in Kerala, Sitaram Yechury announced two positions to be given to two leaders of his own party who had successfully contested the elections from there. One is that of the leader of the legislative party of the CPI-M, or effectively the chief ministership of Kerala. That went to Pinarayi Vijayan. The other one went to V.S. Achuthanandan. He is made the Fidel Castro of Kerala. Yechury, the embattled general secretary of the party who is also known to be closer to VS than to Vijayan, elaborated on the function of the second position since, seemingly, he felt that people could develop doubts about the implication of this honour, if not an anxiety whether the left victory in a single assembly election is turning Kerala into Cuba. He clarified that VS will be an inspirational symbol providing advice and direction to the new government, and added that the veteran leader could not head the government due to his advanced age and poor health. Yechury was, of course, flanked by the state secretary of the party Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and VS himself. The suspense thriller of this election thus had the curtain fall, with an anti-climactic scene of unity.
It would deprive us of a unique opportunity to know another meaning of the mandate if we ignore how Yechury has read it. He interpreted the mandate in the same address to the media that was held in Kerala’s capital. He had a special reading to offer us, indeed different from what we all would ordinarily imagine. His reading is distinguished from ours by its methodology itself. He does not look at the assembly elections with reference to states where elections have taken place now. According to him, elections took place in 820 seats. He took out his cell phone and provided the statistics of the results. The BJP could win only in 64 assembly seats, the Congress in 115 whereas the Left has been victorious in 124. He said that this was “the absolute ground reality”. He assured us, the anxious beings, further that this reality implied no such threat as the return of the saffron. When a journalist mentioned to him the victory of the Trinamool Congress that had won above 210 seats in West Bengal, he said he had in mind only the national parties. So, we are expected to understand if we haven’t yet, that the Left’s is indeed an impressive performance as a national party!
That the past few months have been cataclysmic is an understatement. Personal tragedies and political catastrophes have exploded within our most cherished spaces, and brought a churning in them. What was truly transformative was the experience of both the emergence of broad solidarities against right-wing fascism, and of the reminders of multiple registers and contexts within them. These underline the need for multiple conversations to understand both our common struggles, as well as the contradictions within, and to renew a resolve for introspection through them as we move towards real ‘azaadi’.
There is of course an ongoing debate on this, and here I felt that some binaries being invoked in it are not very convincing, while others brought home stark truths that pose challenges to a patriarchal, majoritarian caste hindu ordering of society, within which we are all located at different levels of hierarchy, complicity, and engagement.
I have been part of both public universities under fire right now, and the present brings home the urgency of the dual task of defending the public university as a space for pushing the boundaries of critical thought, and confronting the very hierarchies and complicities with power that shape it. This is necessary even as processes of democratisation and affirmative action take root in public institutions . So these are some reminiscences from an alumna of both these public universities who has been wrestling with articulations and complexities which lie beyond institutional labels or binaries. Continue reading Responding to the Challenges of Blue and Red – Reminiscences of a JNU-HCU Alumna: Shipra Nigam→
The Prime Minister’s monogrammed suit and the HRD Minister’s fake degree in the early days of the BJP’s 2014 electoral win were embarrassments dotting the uneasy calm that prevailed over the new digital, development avatar of the nation; even as a sense of the slouching beast waiting to break through the controlled, contained quietism was always there in deferred menace. And thus, when majoritarian sentiment fuelled the ‘Ghar waapsi’ campaign and the ban on cow slaughter found a mainstreaming in minority witch hunting, there was an eerie expectedness to these turns. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s minatory address, carrying the subtext of a communal cleansing in sinister remand, visibilized itself in the horrific lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri. Mostly civil voices of protest raged against this as well as against the organised killings of questioning rationalists like Pansare and Kalburgi. Sections of the thinking polity mobilised signature campaigns, petitions and an entire event like the‘Award waapsi’ drew attention to this vitiated political climate. Continue reading The Limits of Efficient Suasion : Rina Ramdev→