People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 49

December 05, 2010




Secularism Not Merely An Electoral Issue


Pinarayi Vijayan


IN both Kerala and West Bengal, reactionary forces backed by the right wing media, have been deliberately promoting ultra-left positions and dubiously posing the ultra-lefts and pseudo-lefts as true revolutionaries. When the right-wing ideologies of these reactionary forces, despite their continuous efforts, failed to defeat the Left in states like Kerala and West Bengal, which are the bastion of the Left forces, they finally put on the ‘left’ mask and began to make use of the ultra-lefts to attack the CPI(M) and the Left. In Kerala, these reactionary political forces have been very active and mislead the people to the right-wing camp by deceitfully raising radical slogans. The mainstream Left in Kerala had faced the ultra-left challenge in the past also. The past experience shows that during the earlier periods the ultra-left positions endeavoured to weaken the Left base and thus aid the right-wing politics. At present, these ultra-left forces are not hesitant to openly join hands with the reactionary right-wing to subvert the Left. In the recent local bodies elections, it was fully obvious evident that these sections had shamelessly supported the United Democratic Front (UDF).




For example, they widely propagated about the “massive influence” of the SJ(D) after it split away from the Janata Dal (Secular), left the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and joined the UDF. True this section had some influence in a few areas like Chittoor, Vadakara and Peringalam. But Chittoor has been a stronghold of the UDF since long. In Peringalam, the LDF won in both of the district panchayat divisions. In Vadakara also, the LDF registered a significant victory in the Municipal Council and the SJ(D) did not succeed in any of the seats. Whatever few seats the SJ(D) won as part of the UDF were due to the support of the anti-CPI(M) sections. A section of the Indian National League (INL) also had joined the UDF. The INL had some influence in certain areas in Kasaragod, Kannur and Kozhikkode districts. However, the LDF secured significant victories in all these three districts.


Clearly, this motivated propaganda by the forces outside the realm of politics was designed to serve the UDF by pressurising the Kerala Congress (Joseph) to leave the LDF. The election result is a clear sign and a caution that the intervention of such forces in political affairs evidently deteriorates the secular fabric and legacy of the state. The issue of the interference of religion in the affairs of the state and political life was widely debated before the elections. The UDF, for making narrow political gains, blatantly endorses such interventions that impair the secular foundations of the state. The democratic sections of the society have to realise that such a perilous move would certainly sabotage the great secular legacy of Kerala. The constitution of India endorses the concept of a secular state; it restrains the state from intervening in religious matters and restrains the religion from intervening in political matters. That is why the Election Commission had to intervene in the matter and forbid to seek votes in the name of religion.


In Kerala, the LDF endeavoured to uphold this constitutional provision and thus safeguard the secular ethos. The communal forces and terrorists seek to undermine the secular legacy of the state. The LDF position is vividly clear and it has never compromised with such communal intrusions. Even many religious leaders have endorsed the Left stance. For example, Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil, after casting his vote, expressed his view that it is improper to cast one’s vote on the basis of religious faith. The Left parties are of the view that if religion’s intervention in politics is not resisted, it will irrefutably be helpful to the Sangh Parivar and thus pose threats to the minorities. The question of restricting religion’s intervention in politics cannot be a mere election agenda. This is required for the overall progress of the society itself. As for an individual, the Left view is clear: every individual has a right to enjoy all the civil liberties including the unrestricted freedom of religious belief and worship.




In its Programme, the CPI(M) insists on “defending the right of every religious community --- whether it is the majority or the minorities --- as well as those who have no faith in any religion to believe in and practice any religion or none at all.” The party and the Left are pledged to fight zealously to defend the right of all religious believers --- Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others --- to profess and practise their religious faith. At the same time, the CPI(M) supports and defends the right of the non-believers not to practise any religious ritual. At the same time, there are wide disparities in the living conditions and financial status of the people in both these groups --- believers and atheists. Most of the members of each group are workers, peasants and middle class sections. The Left politics endeavours to intervene and resolve the livelihood questions of these sections. While intervening with such an objective, however, it may harm the vested interest of certain sections who obviously oppose the Left. Yet the fact is that these forces cannot criticise the Left for raising the day to day issues of the people and taking a firm position on these questions. In such circumstances, the reactionary forces always use one or another trick in a bid to divert the people’s attention from their real issues. That is why they keep inculcating divisive and communal sentiments and thus undermine the genuine issues of the people. This is precisely what has of late been taking place to harm the Left in Kerala. Otherwise, the position of the Left is unambiguous and it has never sought to undermine any religious faith or to alter any forms of religious worship and preaching.


Any reform in religious rituals and forms of worship can take place only on the basis of the thinking that is developing in the concerned religious group itself. Religious reformation cannot be imposed by any degree or kind of coercion by outside forces. Various reform movements have occurred in diverse religious groups in the past, and their history vividly establishes this fact. In opposition to this unambiguous approach of the Left, however, it is not because of any concern for religion that the vested interests have been indulging in erroneous and baseless propaganda among the religious believers against the Left. In fact, they do so to make calculated political gains. But the use of religion for narrow political advantages, this kind of religious intervention in politics will certainly impair the people’s unity and religious harmony. This may divide the people apart and thus result in a chaotic situation. That is why the LDF cannot consider the issue of safeguarding secularism as a mere electoral question. The Left movement be expected to dilute its positions on fundamental issues for temporary electoral gains. The Left views elections as a tool of struggle to defend the people’s rights as well as basic values like secularism. Thus the Left always adopts an uncompromising approach towards the communal forces of all hues.




The Indian ruling classes have time and again given up the secular ethos for its narrow political gains. The rightist forces in Kerala also do the same thing and have always joined with all sorts of communal forces for electoral benefits. The CPI(M) Programme deals with this question. It states, “The secular principle is enshrined in the constitution and the values of secular democracy are proclaimed by the big bourgeois leadership of the state. However, the practice of secularism by the bourgeoisie has been flawed. They try to distort the whole concept of secularism. They would have the people believe that instead of complete separation of religion and politics, secularism means freedom for all religious faiths to equally interfere in the affairs of the state and political life. Instead of firmly combating the anti-secular trends, the bourgeoisie often gives concessions and strengthens them” (Para 5.7).


The present article tries to evaluate the political situation in the state on the basis of the voting pattern in the local body elections while also taking into account various elections during the last 15 years. It is true that the Left could not score the expected victory in the latest elections. But a communist party always evaluates its merits and demerits not only on the basis of its electoral performance; it takes many other factors into consideration to identify the weaknesses and rectify the mistakes, in its endeavour to move to the correct path. It is the communist method to assess the situation by means of criticism and self-criticism, and the CPI(M) in Kerala adopts the same method.


It is also an undeniable fact that the performance of the LDF government in Kerala has ensured relief and welfare to all sections in the society. Given this fact, compared to the present performance, the LDF should have secured an extremely significant victory. Aware of these facts, the UDF has been encouraging and spreading communal and divisive feelings in the society in order so as to defeat the Left. Apart from this fact, there may have been certain other reasons for our defeat. The CPI(M) is in the process of identifying the flaws through a thorough analysis and rectify them for the further development of the party. The party has to rise to the expectation and requirements of the people, and it pledges to do so. Whatever flaws have come up will be rectified for further advance. While not compromising on its fundamental positions, the CPI(M) will certainly rectify its mistakes through collective assessment. This much it promises to the people.