Two left parties -- Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) – are contesting six seats each in the Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections. The parties are part of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA).
With their own pockets of influence among the workers, peasants and other masses, along with a committed cadre base to carry an election campaign, the parties are expecting a higher strike rate this time. A number of factors, including the increase in prices of essential commodities and the general goodwill the parties have among the public, should work in their favour.
After the initial hiccup of disagreements with the DMK on seat allocation, the parties' cadres have overcome the disappointment. The DMK and the Left parties have a long-standing alliance and understanding which is evident on the ground.
CANDIDATES FROM THE GRASSROOTS
The Communist parties are known to field candidates from the grassroots, a rare occurrence in the Indian political landscape. The candidates' list published by both the CPI and CPI(M) was a testament to this fact.
While the major political parties distribute tickets based on ‘spending capacity’, the Left parties select candidates based on their experience in leading peoples' struggles. The average assets of five CPI(M) candidates was at Rs 21.91 lakhs, according to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
While candidates from Left parties too have criminal cases filed against them, they are not over personal issues, but for leading protests for the people. The only woman candidate from the Left parties, S. Ponnuthai of the CPI(M) who is contesting from Thiruparankundram, has 37 cases against her, all of which are for organising and participating in protests.
K. Marimuthu, the CPI candidate contesting from Thiruthuraipoondi, lives in a hut, while his wife is a farm labourer and relies on half an acre land for their livelihood. The CPI(M) candidate from Gandharvakottai, M. Chinnadurai, lives in a small house in a colony which was made for workers of a company where he had been employed.
“People from my village are asking why my wife is continuing to work under MGNREGA when I am contesting the assembly elections. This is our way of life and it will continue irrespective of the position the people give us,” Chinnadurai said.
COMMITTED CADRES RUN CAMPAIGN
Another source of massive strength are the parties' committed cadres on the ground. From moving door to door seeking votes to collecting funds for the campaign, they are involved in every activity of the party during and after the elections.
Some cadres pay the security deposit for the candidates, unlike in other parties where the second rung leadership pays for their leaders. For Nagai Mali, the CPI(M) candidate from KeezhVelur constituency – where the memorial for the Venmani martyrs memorial is situated – Sethupathi, the security guard of the memorial came forward to pay the security deposit.
“Sethupathi has been appointed by the CPI(M) to take care of the construction works carried out in the memorial. He is paid a small amount by the party for his work and he is not financially sound as well. But, his spirit to pay the deposit for his fellow comrade fighting in the elections is the wealth of the party,” Nagai Mali said.
LEADING STRUGGLES FOR THE PEOPLE
The Left parties, more so than other major parties, have been leading peoples’ struggles. From leading protests against "anti-farmer, anti-worker policies of the BJP" with the unrelenting support of the AIADMK government, the struggles of the parties are never ending. Cultural interventions have become equally important, with the Tamil language and Dravidian culture being undermined by the BJP government.
Aadhavan Dheetchanya, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers' and Artists' Association said: "The fight is not restricted to defeating the AIADMK-BJP alliance, but to win back the legacy of Dravidian tradition and culture. The BJP has been trying hard to destabilise our cultural values but archaeological proofs have established that the Dravidian civilisation is older than other civilisations unearthed so far."
The CPI(M) and CPI are second to none in championing day-to-day issues of the workers, farmers, women, students and youth.
The accessibility to Left party leaders and their on-ground experience plays in their favour during elections. Though the parties find themselves caught between the bipolar political nature of the state, their representation and contribution in the assembly are highly valued.