Published: 24th May 2019
Why the might of the SFI wasn't enough to net Malappuram for Comrade V P Sanu
SFI's National President, V P Sanu had lost the elections. We analyse a few factors that would have gone wrong for him
2019 is definitely not the best year for Kerala's Left Democratic Front government. On January 2, the very second day of the year, two women of menstruating age entered Sabarimala, an old temple in Pathanamthitta, where age-old rituals prohibited by the entry of women aged between 10 and 50. Now, the two women hadn't done anything unlawful. The Supreme Court of India in September 2018 ruled that women of all age group can enter the shrine. But the move, in many ways, affected the LDF government's reputation and the CPM's Loksabha candidates. V P Sanu is one of them.
The events that followed the women's entry to Sabarimala was probably something new to the population of Kerala. Men and women of different age groups went on rallying across streets, condemning the act. While the BJP and the Congress decided to express solidarity to the protestors, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government was subjected to a lot of criticism, for supporting the Supreme Court verdict. This was the same government, that months ago received praise from all over the country for the way it handled the 2018 floods and the deadly Nipah virus. The result? LDF lost the polls in 19 out of 20 constituencies in the state.
Now, let us talk about Malappuram. The competition in this constituency was between the Congress-backed Indian Union Muslim League's P K Kunhalikkutty and CPM's V P Sanu. A new face to mainstream politics, Sanu is the SFI's National President. The 30-year-old being offered a ticket in these polls was, in fact, quite surprising. At the time when this copy was written, Sanu had polled 3,29,103 votes, against Kunhalikutty, who managed a total of 5,89,153 votes.
It will be ridiculously redundant to mention how the ghosts of Sabarimala haunted the LDF, one more time. But apart from that what was it that went wrong for Sanu? A popular and young leader, he had enjoyed great support from the social media community. But that wasn't enough for victory.
Malappuram was traditionally an Indian Union Muslim League bastion. Since its formation in 2009, the League had managed to win every single seat there. While the former union minister E Ahmed won the elections in both 2009 and 2014, P K Kunhalikutty won the 2017 by-election, following Ahmed's death. Therefore, it would have been almost impossible for a newcomer to defeat them. The demographics of Malappuram too were in favour of Kunhalikutty, whose competitor was a student leader, who chose to not reveal his religion for the sake of votes.
The SFI, the organisation that Sanu heads also struggled to stay clear of controversies. The unionists have had allegations of assault, murder and even sexual harassment against them. Many times, the SFI has had delays in issuing statements or speaking up about the issues. These would have also backfired Sanu's candidature.
A month back, we spoke to filmmaker Aashiq Abu who had kickstarted a campaign called #SoSanu challenge, asking left unionists to pen down anecdotes that made Sanu stand out. At that time, Aashiq told us, "The way Sanu handled everything in that protest meeting was mindblowing. I'd met him for the first time during Jishnu Pranoy's unfortunate death. He was really mature, both politically and emotionally. Especially at an occasion like this, there are chances for an emotional outburst. That sort of maturity is what one expects from a leader." The defeat would have definitely put the SFI unionists in low spirits. But Sanu, on the other hand, is not ready to give up. He wrote optimistically, "The joint struggles of students, youth, workers and peasants are here to continue. A tough fight ahead."