Artwork by Lloyd Evangelista

The Return of Socialism: A Spotlight on Germany, India, and Chile (Part 2)

by Gracelle Tungbaban, Lemuel Deinla, and Gabbie Santos

Second of four parts. Read Part 1 here.

INDIA: Competent and compassionate leadership

The State of Kerala in India made history last year when its people re-elected an incumbent party to power. The state has been known to vote out the ruling incumbent party, preferring to swing between left and right in the past decades. But in 2021, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) was able to defend its majority in the state assembly elections, the first political party to do so in Kerala in over 40 years.

The Left Democratic Front, Kerala’s coalition of left-leaning parties led by CPI-M, won a landslide election; a clear mandate from the people. Infographic from IndiaToday.

Several reasons were offered as to how the CPI-M was able to remain in power despite formidable anti-incumbency challenges from India’s ruling parties, led by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Jeemon Jacob of India Today explained how and why CPI-M and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) prevailed in the Kerala elections. First was the incredible crisis management displayed by the party leaders. Kerala was hit by several crises these past years including from devastation from Cyclone Okchi in 2017, disastrous floods and the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018. During the disasters, the state government distributed food kits to over 8.8 million Keralans. In the aftermath of the floods, the Left government initiated a housing project for the victims. Over 12,000 homes have been given away to previously landless and homeless beneficiaries, a portion of them were the flood victims.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, center, wearing gloves, after his party won in 2021. Photo from IndiaToday.

The state’s competent and people-centered pandemic response was also a huge impetus that delivered victory to the LDF. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan utilized his administration’s past experience in dealing with the Nipah virus outbreak to prepare for COVID-19 pandemic. Although Kerala was among the states with the most number of COVID-19 cases at one point, the state can boast of having the lowest death rate and being self-sufficient in oxygen supply despite having a sizable population of senior citizens. Kerala Health Minister K. K. Shailaja said that she was inspired by Cuba’s universal healthcare system. She endorsed Cuba’s healthcare model where planning is centralized but the implementation is decentralized. She also pointed out that India’s privatization of hospitals led to the collapse of India’s healthcare system. Finally, she called for a significant increase of investment in India’s health sector.

The second reason was the genuine concern for the poor. When the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by March 2020, Kerala rolled out emergency financial assistance to its citizens, amounting to 20,000 Rupees (Rs). This was ahead of the economic relief package of the central government. The LDF distributed food and household supplies to Keralan families. Kerala’s Finance Minister, T.M. Thomas Isaac, said that “the Left government ensured that no one sleeps hungry during the time of the pandemic.”

The LDF-led Kerala state government included robust post-pandemic plans in its budget for the year 2021–2022. Welfare pensions for low-income households were increased from 1500 Rs to 1600 Rs. 4,380 kilometers of road were renovated in the state. To help farmers, the price floor of rubber was raised to 170 Rs to help bring in more income. The procurement price for coconuts were also increased from 28 Rs to 32 Rs. 4,000 new positions were created for the health sector to help strengthen the healthcare system. Skills training and laptops sold at a subsidized rate were allotted for the youth who hail from poor households. Funds for new infrastructures in Kerala universities were also included in the state budget.

Another reason for LDF’s success was the party’s coalition building with other parties which allowed it to expand its electoral base. The Communist Party of India-Marxist aimed to isolate the right-wing Hindu nationalist coalition of the Bharatiya Janata Party by engaging with other non-left parties to broaden its alliance. For this goal to materialize, left-leaning and other democratic forces must unify “based on an alternative policy programme, alternative to the policies of the ruling classes, and on this basis to sharpen people’s struggles”, said CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury. Consolidation and solidarity were necessary to fight for the needs of the country, defend the constitution, and protect the welfare of the people.

Source: grida.no

Lastly, LDF’s victory can also be credited by the political savvy of the party leader and Kerala state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who was able to think ahead and carefully navigate through political scandals and issues thrown at his party. Chief Minister Pinarayi was a reliable leader who provided stable and calm leadership while the pandemic was raging.

This was in stark contrast with Prime Minister Modi whose bravado and recklessness made India the epicenter of COVID-19 infections in 2021. The Prime Minister boldly claimed that his country was able to abate the spread of COVID-19 and should be considered a paragon of pandemic response. Because of overconfidence, PM Modi allowed seven million Indians to celebrate Kumbh Mela, a religious holiday, in April. The government allowed mass gatherings like political rallies and cricket games without regard to social distancing and other health protocols. Daily infection rate exploded, which peaked to more than 100,000 cases a day in April 2021, resulting in a deadly second wave and India’s healthcare system becoming overwhelmed. Although India is one the world’s largest vaccine producers, the country’s vaccination drive was painfully slow because of PM Modi’s misguided insistence that India should give away its vaccines to needy countries. This was despite the fact that India’s vaccination rate of only 65 million people partially vaccinated adults, and 10 million fully vaccinated by April out of more than a billion population. This was the disappointing vaccination rate when PM Modi was busy pursuing his vaccine diplomacy campaign.

In times of chaos and disaster, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Left Democratic Front stepped up to provide stable, reliable, and competent leadership. Political commentators have noted that the Left’s victory in Kerala will shape the Indian electoral landscape in the next general elections in 2024. Kerala proves that the spirit of the revolution is only growing stronger.

To be continued.

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Institute for Nationalist Studies

Institute for Nationalist Studies

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The Institute advances ideas and information campaigns on social issues to ferment a nationalist consciousness for the interest of the people’s welfare