PMANE ties up with AAP! Is the road ahead slippery or thorny?

AAP-PMANEAs the parliamentary elections are nearing, the political parties have dumped their ideologies in the backyard and are busy working out their coalitions all for the sake of power. For all these years the masses have seen the drama helplessly but with a hope that their lives will get better with a regime change, a ray of false hope that bourgeoisie democracy throws every now and then at the masses. 28th Feb saw a strange coalition being sealed when SP Udayakumar, who has been leading the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) against the Kudankulam nuclear plant (Southern Tamil Nadu), announced his decision to join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The Kudankulam nuclear plant faced opposition ever since its inception in 1988. It gained vigour since the disaster in Fukushima (2011). For the past three years the villages surrounding the plant have launched a determined struggle against the state that is hell bent on not just implementing the project but also expanding the Kudankulam nuclear plant. Idinthankarai has become the epicenter of the protest.

The villagers have endured numerous hardships. More than 2 lakh villagers have been charged with 340 different cases. 9000 villagers have been charged with sedition. 13,000 villagers have been charged with waging war against the state. Four villagers have died so far in a police shoot out. Udhayakumar himself faces more than 200 charges. Even after the apex courts direction to withdraw the cases none of the cases have been withdrawn. The Kudankulam protest has taken various forms. There have been hunger strikes, rallies, sieges on the power plant itself and people even buried themselves in sand. But all that seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Even their legal battle through the judiciary citing the lack of safety was rejected. The state has so far successfully contained the struggle within the village. The shortage of electricity and the government propaganda that Kudankulam will solve the shortage has proved to be a big impedance for the struggle to spread among the masses of Tamil Nadu and beyond.

In a television debate, while explaining the rationale for his decision on joining AAP, Udayakumar vented out his frustration that the state has ignored the various protests and is stubborn on implementing its nuclear agenda, and also the various political parties that have supported the struggle have now gone into alliance with parties that have a pro nuclear policy. MDMK chief Vaiko announced his unconditional alliance with BJP and even went to the extent that Eelam Tamils want Modi to be the next Prime Minister of India to justify his alliance! PMK is also eyeing an alliance with BJP. Other smaller parties like Vidudhalai Chiruthaigal Party (a Dalith Party) and Manidhaneya Nakkal Katchi (a Muslim Party) are in alliance with the DMK.

While all these parties have expressed solidarity with the protesters against the nuclear plant, but there was never any mass propaganda by them on the issue of Kudankulam. Both the Communist Parties are in favor of the KKNP project. One of their leaders D Pandian even went to the extent to say that the protesters can vacate their villages if they do not want the nuclear power plant!

A parliamentary ticket through AAP, Udhayakumar believes would help to take the protest at a national level. The PMANE, he said would still continue under the leadership of the women from the Idinthankarai village. Udhayakumar seems to be heavily relying on the so called democratic nature of the AAP, an image it has tried to project ever since its inception. But the extent to which AAP is democratic is questionable.

Udhayakumar says that AAP has agreed that if the locals do not support a project then the project should be stopped. Prashant Bushan while assuring AAP’s support to the PMANE said “We always opposed nuclear energy and also the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project”(Economic Times). But on the other hand Arvind Kejriwal while expressing solidarity with the struggle did not utter a word about India’s nuclear policy or the use of nuclear energy, but only spoke of “inclusive development”(India Today). Can the statement of Prashant Bushan be taken as the policy of AAP?

Looking at AAP track record it difficult to arrive at such a conclusion. In case of the Kashmir Bhushan stood for a referendum on army deployment in civilian areas, while Kejriwal did not. In a debate on NDTV Kejriwal said that Bhushan no longer subscribes to that view and he has convinced him that referendum is not the solution. The details of how this conflict of opinions was solved were never shared with the public by this “democratic” party. Kejriwal further said that he was okay with deploying the army for a short time, leaving the definition of short to be vague and that we have to win over the hearts of the people of Kashmir. This idea of winning people to our side is same as what the courts and parties supporting the nuclear plant have said, that the protesters should be educated and ensured about safety of nuclear energy and made to accept the state’s policy!

The question of Tamil nationality question in Sri Lanka was also one of the points on which the discussion has happened between Udhayakumar and AAP before he joined the party. When AAP questioned Udhayakumar on his stance on Kashmir, he has replied that Kashmiris should not be not treated as second class citizens (Indian Express), without going further. If the people of Eelam or people of Idinthankarai have a right to decide on what they need, then the people of Kashmir also have the same right. Denying that right itself makes them second class citizens.

Udhayakumar could be taking a dangerous road which can prove fatal for the struggle itself. His frustration that the struggle is nowhere moving forwards is shared by other progressive forces that have supported the struggle. Of course, parliament is not a accursed place of forbidden entrance. But to take up the issue of Kudankulam to national level, he could have contested as an independent candidate. If he wins the upcoming elections it will be solely based on his association with the struggle and not the AAP banner which is little known in many parts of Tamil Nadu.

The politics of growth is closely linked with Nuclear policy of India. On 13th Jan,2014, Prime minister Manmohan Singh when laying foundation of a 2800 MW nuclear power plant in Haryana said its essential to maintain the tempo of Indian economic growth. The “growth oriented policy making” of the government has created a myriad problems for the working people of India. The politics of growth is the card that is played by every party in India.

In another interview, Udhayakumar said that a party other than Congress, BJP, CPI and CPM is preferable at the centre. But being a member of a party like AAP that does not seems to have a different internal or external policy compared to the rest and does only moral policing on the political arena could prove to be an illusionary or even a dangerous decision. But a political party is just a mask the system wears and changes every now and then to project an illusion of choice, without any revolutionary change. It’s not this or that political party or coalitions, but a coalition of various people’s movements, democratic trade union bodies, Dalith organizations, women groups etc., that can challenge the system across India, a task that befalls not just on PMANE, but on all radical progressive forces.

Arun Kaliraja

Bangalore