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America’s loss, beacon of light for comrades

Thiruvananthapuram, July 28: America has just pulled off an unwitting coup. It has “opened the eyes” of a comrade in the nick of time.

Communist twins CPM and CPI have denied sanction to three Kerala MLAs to travel to the US for an all-expenses-paid orientation programme organised by the state department for “young lawmakers”.

Trip nipped, one of the comrades thanked his party, saying the decision had served as a “beacon of light”.

The three were among nine legislators chosen by the US consulate for the 22-day programme, organised apparently “to acclimatise young lawmakers from around the world with the US federal system”.

But the two Left parties would have none of it. The official reason that has been given is that Left legislators should not be seen accepting favours from the US, which is backing Israel in the conflict with Palestine. Party sources, however, said there was also the fear that the programme might be an attempt to make participants embrace America’s “imperialist” ways.

“Some three weeks back, we got an intimation from the Assembly Speaker’s office that nine MLAs have been chosen for the 22-day programme organised by the Bureau of Culture and Education. It is an annual programme and many lawmakers from around the world have attended it. So I consulted my party but was told that we cannot agree in principle with it. So I conveyed my inability to take up the offer to the Speaker’s office,” CPM MLA T.V. Rajesh told The Telegraph.

Taking a cue from Rajesh’s decision, CPM-backed Independent MLA K.T. Jaleel, whose name figured on the list, backed out too.

With the CPM vetoing the trip, the CPI followed suit, advising party MLA E.S. Bijimol, who had already secured visa papers from the US consulate, to stay back. “The party had given me permission initially. But then the Gaza situation had not deteriorated. Now with the condition worsening, the party told me not to go,” Bijimol said.

Jaleel explained his position in a Facebook post yesterday. Welcoming the party’s decision, Jaleel said he had initially been glad when told that he was among those selected for the trip based on “some criteria” and had not thought about the likely consequences then.

Then came the eye-opener as Uncle Sam’s loss turned into a flash of insight for the legislator.

The party’s decision served as a “beacon of light”, he wrote, adding that the CPM’s stand had “relevance” given the US’s “culpable silence on atrocities carried out by Israel in Gaza”.

He also thanked CPM general secretary Prakash Karat and the party’s state committee for “opening my eyes”. About the trip logistics, he said the organisers were paying $30,000 to each participant, besides airfare.

Jaleel wrote again today, claiming the CPM’s opposition was to travelling at the US government’s expense, as those spending the money were bound to have an agenda.

The decision of the Left parties has not influenced either the ruling Congress or ally Muslim League. In fact, the withdrawal of the three comrades gave the ruling UDF the chance to nominate three of its own. The list now includes V.T. Balram, P.C. Vishnunath, I.C. Balakrishnan, Anwar Sadath and Shafi Parambil of the Congress, K.M. Shaji and N. Samsudeen of the League and Mons Joseph of UDF ally Kerala Congress. There’s space for one more nominee.

Joseph said he saw “no logic” in the Left’s decision to boycott the event.

“The International Leadership Training Programme is an annual feature of the US government and young lawmakers from across the world attend it. Participation at a global level between various countries is to learn from each other’s best practices. When we are speaking of a global village, there is no reason to connect such a programme with the international geopolitical situation,” Joseph said before taking a jab at the communist parties.

“How can anyone insist that they will travel only to China or Russia?”