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Caught between Marx and Market

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The real tragedy (both in personal and social life) begins when the difference between preaching and practice becomes too obvious. And this is what is precisely happening to the ruling Marxists in God’s own country, Kerala. Recent developments in the state have brought out the ugly warts of corruption that dominate the ruling communist dispensation which swears by austerity in public life.

In 2016, the then ruling Congress-led Front, UDF, was swept out of power on corruption charges. The then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was accused of taking crores and sexual favours from a woman (now in jail for the solar scandal) and the then Finance Minister K M Mani was alleged to have collected about `10 crore from the bar owners body for suitably amending the total prohibition policy. A majority of the members of the UDF were placed on the bar of public opinion by the rival Marxist-led Front in the elections.

Now, it is the turn of the Marxists including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a dyed-in-the-wool Communist, to face corruption and favouritism charges. Three of his ministers have already resigned, the fate of one more is in the balance—all for favours including grabbing government land for private business, appointing close relatives in key positions in state public sector jobs, etc.

This was not all. The party of the proletariat recently  faced the worst of the allegations against it. A leading Malayalam newspaper revealed that the son of Kerala CPM State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a former home minister (number two in the former Left Front government), is being pursued for non-payment of a loan of `13 crore due to a tourism company in Dubai. An Indian citizen and an Arab from Dubai are supposedly partners of the company.

A cheque given by Binoy, the businessman son of Balakrishnan in partial repayment is reported to have bounced, exposing the shady deal between Binoy and the tourism company registered in the UAE city. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi said that the alleged loan was a business deal between an individual and a business company and the party had nothing to do with it.

Speaking for the Marxists, Politburo Member S Ramachandran Pillai came out with an explanation that the party cannot be held responsible for a failed business deal between two individuals, one of whom happened to be a close relative of a Marxist leader.

Fair enough, many thought. But why should the lender  knock at the CM’s door if the ruling party had nothing to do with the loan obtained by a minister’s son ? Was there any deal or a favour promised to the lender by the government?

Marxist politburo leader Pillai may be right in insisting that it is the responsibility of the lenders if they are giving money to anybody who is pushing his relationship with the people in positions of power. But in this case, details have emerged that the Arab businessman, who lent the money to Binoy, was in the tourism business and Balakrishnan was also the tourism minister at the time when the dubious transaction took place.

It is reasonable to suspect that the Arab businessman was expecting a quid pro quo from the Marxist leader who was next only to the then Marxist CM in the government’s hierarchy. A work visa for any Gulf country is priced highly in Kerala and those in the tourism business charge big sums from the visa seekers from the state.

Again, unfortunately for the Marxist leaders, the regional press in Kerala has used the occasion to explore and expose the lifestyles of the Left leaders who preach austerity but are said to be living in luxury. One report pointed out that CM Vijayan was using government funds to finance a helicopter ride to reach a party function. Another Marxist minister had declared that the `8 lakh involved was not a big deal for the CPM; they would soon reimburse the  government.

But the story of Marxist wealth is not confined to Kerala alone. The story repeated itself in West Bengal for 35 years till the people got the Marxists to vacate their fort. The story of the Communist leaders gathering wealth personally and buying political support is now an international phenomenon.

China’s President Xi Jinping projects himself as an anti-corruption activist—the world was witness to the corruption at top Communist Party positions when a British dealer was found murdered in his hotel room in central China and the murder was traced to a powerful Communist leader and his ambitious wife. Both have been prison over the last five years.

In fact sleazy wealth and communism are natural bed fellows. China has a crony capitalist system run by a ruthless communist dictatorship. In the absence of an independent judiciary and a vibrant free media, islands of massive graft thrive in the so called ‘socialist’ country.

The vulgar and debauched lifestyle of Mao Zedong, a father figure in Chinese Communist pantheon, is a legend. There are stories galore about the ruthlessness and suppression of masses by the dynastical regime of Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

In Kerala, corruption of both the Congress and the Communists—the political binary that has succeeded in keeping the state under its grip since 1958—is now fully exposed. Is the choice for the Keralites limited to these two Fronts, the LDF and the UDF? Your guess is as good as mine.

By Balbir Punj

Former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues

Email: punjbalbir@gmail.com

Courtesy: New Indian Express

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