‘When elections come, Congress party
gets suicidal tendencies’
Writer Paul Zacharia takes on the
fascinating world of Kerala politics
in a no holds barred interview
Paul Zacharia, one of the leading literary figures in Kerala, is also a political commentator. His views on issues, whether on politics or Kerala society, are
always pungent and unique. In this exclusive interview
with Shobha Warrier, Zacharia takes on Kerala’s politicians in his combative style.
If you look at Kerala’s neighbors — Tamil Nadu, Andhra
Pradesh or Karnataka — which are highly industrialized
and provide employment to lakhs of people, nobody dares
to start an industry in Kerala. Is it one of the ill effects of
Though all the political parties are responsible for it, the
leadership was originally in the hands of the Communists.
Even today, when you say nokku kooli (an unofficial labor
norm under which wages are paid to trade union activists
for allowing investors/builders to download material using
either machines or their own labor), we associate it with
Communists, but across the board, all workers
practice nokku kooli. All these things were started by the
Communists once, but have been taken over by other political parties too.
So, it is not a good climate for industries in Kerala. The
responsibility of making the worker an enemy of capital
and anyone who starts an industry, lies with all political
parties, I hold all of them responsible for it.
Do you see this changing?
I don’t see this changing. It has become a habit and people have learnt to take it easy. All the economic problems of
the state are because there is no creation of wealth. It is all
covered up and softened by the money that flows from
abroad. How long can an economy sustain on money from
abroad? So much money comes from people who work in
all parts of the world, right from Japan to America to the
Middle East to Europe. That money keeps the economy
going and nobody feels the pressure. Till now, this economy
has survived. If the upheaval in the Gulf changes to some
kind of an unpredictable situation, it can create an economic tsunami here.
If that money stops coming, half of Kerala will stop eating. That will be a dangerous situation. Many of the things
that are happening in the state like the real estate boom or
building activities and even the tourism sector will suffer. It
can hit the Kerala economy very hard.
Kerala’s entire revenue is spent on the salaries of government employees, that is, money coming from 30 million
Malayalis is spent on paying the salaries of about 200,000
Kerala is described as a consumer society dependant on
other states for everything. Is it also sustainable?
Everything is sustainable as long as money flows from
abroad. The money that comes in, I am told, is seven times
the value of the Kerala budget. Another seven times comes
in through black channels. It is this money that runs the
Do you consider public education, public healthcare and
land reforms as the biggest achievements of this state?
Yes, these are the biggest achievements of Kerala. Land
reform was from where everything started. It was part of a
social, political consciousness and a humanitarian commitment. The early Communists like V T Bhattathiripad were
humanitarians. They were concerned with the actual state
of the poor and wanted to change society. When the
Communists came to power, they automatically took
charge of some of the ills of society.
But with power and money and the need to come back to
power, the humanitarian element went out of Communism
and we saw the political management of these issues.
Humanitarianism vanished from Communism.
Whatever they did, they did with a political agenda.
What drew the young of Kerala till the 1970s to the Left
Communism came in as a progressive movement in literature and art and paintings and theatre. The progressive
movement always had a Left ideology. And that became the
modernist movement later. The young found the thinking
of the Left attractive and something rebellious.
Do you feel today’s young are not attracted to the Left ide-
I don’t think the Left holds any more charm for today’s
young because that social order of deprivation and lack of
opportunities is not there any more for a great majority in
The deprived people in Kerala are the tribal people and a
few fisherfolk. The leaders who lead the movement at that
time had an aura of idealism and sincerity around them.
Now, you are talking about professional politicians. Also,
today, a lot of party workers are employed by the party to
do certain things and they are paid for the work. The Left
has converted itself over the years into a party of the middle and upper middle classes and the salaried class like government employees, schoolteachers, etc. Those who are in
the trade union movement want their things to be done
while the party is in power.
So, it’s not ideology that draws them to the Left?
Ideology does not matter to these people. All that matters
to them is their service conditions and the permission and
opportunity to be corrupt.
In many parts of the world, Communism is dying though
it is being revived in several places in Europe. Do you feel
the Left as an ideology has lost its relevance in today’s
Yes, it died in many parts of the world. If social security is
provided irrespective of caste and creed and age, and if
people are taken care of well, you don’t need Communism.
What you need is an economic manager then. That is what
you see in well managed countries like Sweden or
Germany; everybody is taken care of irrespective of ideology. And they pursue a very powerful socialistic ideology.
How do you compare the Left ideological movement that
started in the 1940s in Kerala to what it is today?
In the 1940s, people were full of ideals and they wanted
change. And they did change a few things. By the time they
came to power, like others, they also started enjoying
power. They became as corrupt as any other political party.
I don’t say all are corrupt. In the present ministry (in
Kerala), there are many who are not corrupt at all. The
Communists of today are not even a shadow of what they
were in the 1940s. It is like any other political party trying
to get power.
Kerala has been alternating between two fronts — the
Congress party-led UDF and the CPI-M-led LDF — making
no one accountable. Do you see the same thing happening
It will be terrible if we have (V S) Achuthanandan as the
chief minister again and the party against him. Then,
Kerala is in deep trouble for the next five years. It was as if
it (the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led United
Democratic Front) wouldn’t come back at all after the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections. The picture changed when
the Congress party got itself into trouble again and again
with all the selfish elements coming out. When the elections come, the Congress party invariably gets suicidal tendencies.
Do you think the 2G spectrum scam will have an impact
on the Kerala assembly election?
No, not at all.
What about the controversy over the appointment of P J
Thomas, a Kerala cadre civil service officer, as Chief
People are very unhappy about the ill treatment he has
received, as he was one of the most honest officers Kerala
has seen. Everybody knows that here. This issue may go
against the Congress.
Do you think Kerala Congress-B leader Balakrishna
Pillai’s arrest in a corruption case could impact the elec-
The Balakrishna Pillai arrest may have some sort of
impact. (Kerala Chief Minister) V S Achuthanandan’s
image as a corruption fighter is bright though corruption is
rampant at the secretariat. You cannot ask for a piece of
paper without paying a bribe. He has failed completely in
tackling corruption in government offices.
For such an active and progressive society, caste-based
parties rule the roost. How do you explain this?
What you have in Kerala are not caste-based parties.
They use caste, that’s all.
What is the difference?
Had they been caste-based, other castes will not vote for
these parties. That is not the case in Kerala. We have parties that claim to be secular using caste and religion very
cleverly at the time of elections.