Is the Left in Kerala turning ‘right’ ?

By Sanu George, IANS,

Thiruvananthapuram : The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala has stirred up fresh controversy – by inaugurating a Rs.350 million amusement park built with CPI-M backing as well as reports that the party is planning a luxury hotel in the state.

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The Vismaya Amusement Park, opened at Kannur last week, is built under the cooperative sector controlled by the CPI-M. Reports that the party’s next venture would be a luxury hotel in Kozhikode has added to the controversy.

Economist-turned Finance Minister Thomas Isaac has added fuel to the fire by stating that there is nothing wrong with such investments.

“There is nothing wrong in it because the venture is being planned in the cooperative sector and it will strengthen the sector. The cooperative sector is not meant only to take up and run loss-making state public sector undertakings. The cooperative sector also needs institutions like hotels and parks,” Isaac stated.

Kozhikode district secretary of the CPI-M, T.P. Ramakrishnan said the tourism sector in north Kerala needs to be promoted.

“Since the Left government came to office in 2006, every effort has been made to promote tourism in the northern part of the state. The cooperative society, which has the support of the CPI-M, has been doing a lot to promote tourism. Why can’t a cooperative society do what high value individual businessmen or private companies do,” Ramakrishnan told IANS.

Ever since present state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan took over the reins of the party in November 1998, the hardliners led by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan in the party have taken a back seat.

Another issue being debated in the CPI-M is the delay by Achuthanandan in giving clearance to more than a dozen applications for special economic zones.

Reportedly not keen to give in to the pressure of the Vijayan faction, the chief minister has got support from the Communist Party of India, which made Achuthanandan say that a final decision on the SEZs would be taken only in consultation with his party politburo and the liaison committee of the LDF.

The CPI-M politburo has taken up the issue. But it appears that Achuthanandan may have to cave in and give sanction to the pending SEZ applications.

Former additional chief secretary and political analyst T.N. Jayachandran says the Left in Kerala is “moving at a very fast pace towards the right”.

“I am 72 years old now, and in my youth, communism was a passion because they had a clear cut ideology and put into practice what they preached. Until a decade back the communists were close to the people, but today I find no difference between the Left and the Congress. Communism is only in name,” Jayachandran told IANS.

Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Oommen Chandy says the CPI-M “always wakes up late and by then the state goes back by many years”.

“They first opposed tractors, then they opposed computers, then they opposed professional colleges in the private sector. This has been their normal practice – to put up stumbling blocks everywhere. We are very clear we will not create road blocks for the development of the state,” Chandy said.

Last week the Left government did another somersault by giving the nod to new professional colleges in the private sector – something they had been opposing all along.