Perumatty upbeat

Kerala local body elections; activists rejoice

Published: Monday 31 October 2005

the political discourse in Kerala today is dominated by how the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (ldf) decimated the Congress led United Democratic Front (udf) in the recent panchayat elections. However, the role played by grassroot level movements in shaping the electoral outcome in many places is conspicuous by their absence in these discussions.

At Perumatty in Palakkad district, ldf won 14 out of 17 seats. Plachimada in this panchayat is well known for its determined struggle against Coca-Cola (See 'Calling the shots,' Down To Earth, December 15, 2003). The Perumatty trend was repeated in many other places. "A dispassionate observation of the election results would reveal a clear pattern behind the choice of the people," said activist and writer C R Neelakandhan.

The victory at Perumatty is significant on two counts: The first, of course, is that the result salutes the local people's perseverance. "If pro-Coca-Cola elements had won, it would have had a cascading impact on the ongoing people's movement in other places in the state," an activist said in Ernakulam. Secondly, "It's a clear verdict against the high-energy intensity and anti-ecological development projects touted by the udf as a panacea for the state's problems," Neelakandhan said.

Victims of endosulfan at Kasargode and people of Arattupuzha and Thrikkunnapuzha threatened by the mineral sand mining project at Alapuzha have rejected udf. So have people in Thrikkakkra panchayat in Ernakulam, where promoters of Dubai Internet City plan to set up a similar venture.

However, the defeat of the Congress and its allies does not mean that the people have embraced the Left. "Wherever the Left supported the people's struggle they have won," said Jayaraj, a Kochi-based journalist. He added that,"The moment the Left comes to power most of the leaders will sing a different tune" and that the people were well aware of this fact.

The election results also focus on inherent problems of grassroot movements, not powerful enough to wean away majority of the people from the clutches of the mainstream political parties. An activist said, "It is not easy for the grassroot movements to articulate themselves as political alternatives. It may be possible but it would take some time" but hopefully not too long.

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