Saffron Blind Left

Hyderabad conference mandated Left leadership to devise electoral tactics in a way that anti-BJP votes are not divided, but Karat-Kerala faction is busy dissecting electoral alliance


According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, an alliance is “a form of an electoral pact or electoral agreement or a coalition”, whereas an “electoral understanding” is worked out primarily to avoid a split in the opposition camp. Why then is the Communist Party of India (Marxist) bickering over the meaning of these strategic terms?

With just seven months left for the general elections, Dalits, minorities, along with Left, liberal and secular forces are trying to unite and form a broad “anti-fascist” national coalition. The BJP has kick-started the process of short listing candidates for the Lok Sabha polls. In contrast, the CPI(M) is in a time-wrap, busy interpreting the terminology of a resolution (adopted at the party’s 22nd Congress in Hyderabad in April) that approved the party’s electoral understanding with the Indian National Congress.

The faction led by former general secretary Prakash Karat and the powerful Kerala lobby have been doggedly opposed to any truck with the Congress while general secretary Sitaram Yechury and his supporters have advocated an understanding with the principal opposition party, with the aim to shore-up the anti-BJP coalition.

It’s baffling that five months after the Hyderabad conference mandated the party leadership to devise electoral tactics in a way that anti-BJP votes are not divided, the Karat-Kerala faction is wasting precious time dissecting the meaning of “electoral alliance” and “political alliance”. Is it a mere ploy to derail the party resolution?

The party congress proceedings were well into the third day and the top leadership was still vertically divided between pro and anti-Congress tactical line. Finally, the Yechury camp prevailed with a majority of the 800-odd delegates throwing their weight behind the Yechury line. Sensing the overwhelming anti-BJP mood of the house, the Prakash Karat faction made a tactical retreat. Temporarily it seems.

Defying the Hyderabad pact, Karat faction leaders in poll-bound Rajasthan and Telangana have started stitching up local alliances sans Congress, thereby jeopardizing the prospect of a united anti-BJP front. The argument that state committees are free to decide local alliances does not hold water given that state-level tactics do impact the Lok Sabha poll results.

The CPI(M) Telangana committee working on a local front has refused to join the Congress-TDP-CPI front, ignoring reports of a covert TRS-BJP understanding in the state.

In Andhra, CPI(M) leaders are chasing actor Pawan Kalyan who has floated a new political outfit. Never mind that Kalyan has not even granted them an appointment so far. Speculation is afoot that the BJP has reached a tacit understanding with Kalyan. If the CPI(M) is firm on a no-truck-with-Congress line, why is the party trying to join the DMK-led front that may include the Congress as well?

Against this backdrop, a politburo meeting was held in Delhi on September 26 to discuss electoral strategies in the poll-bound states. Sources said the Karat-Kerala faction reiterated its opposition to any understanding with the Congress. They, it is understood, tried to give a different interpretation to the Hyderabad document, stressing that the tactics of “no political alliance” with the Congress in the resolution also means “no understanding” with the Congress. With a divided politburo, the issue has been lobbed back to the central committee which is scheduled to meet on October 6.

Hitherto, the Karat-Kerala faction has been steadfastly opposed to the Congress because of the latter’s “neo-liberal” economic policies. However, in the wake of criticism that the CPI(M) has formed alliances with many bourgeoisie parties including the SP, DMK, JDS, NCP and Kerala Congress factions, the use of the term “neo-liberal” is being downplayed. Instead, the focus now is on the “Kerala factor”. Which implies that any truck with the Congress will adversely affect CPI(M)’s electoral prospects in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

This is a fallacious argument in itself. In the 2004 parliament elections when the CPI(M) was part of the Congress-led UPA alliance, the party secured 12 (and the Left Front 16) out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala. The tally of 43 seats was the party’s all-time highest representation in the Lok Sabha.

Comrades standing by the Hyderabad mandate fear if the party refused to be part of the proposed anti-BJP coalition, a large section of Dalits, minorities and backward castes who bear the brunt of the RSS’s communal politics and even physical attacks will be alienated from the CPI(M). They further observe that “such suicidal stand will only help the BJP while isolating the CPI(M) in national politics.”

In any case, rigid opposition to “neo-liberal” economic policy has not helped the party grow. Since the advent of liberalisation in the early 1990s, the CPI(M) has lost two states – West Bengal and Tripura to the BJP, which leaves only Kerala in its kitty. In Bengal, the BJP is fast-emerging as a potential number two pushing the CPI(M) to the periphery of politics. If the BJP is finding the going tough in Kerala, that’s more to do with the state’s cultural and demographic attributes rather than the CPI(M)’s good work. Besides, one must also keep in mind in this context Kerala’s electoral record of alternating between the Congress and the communists every five years.

Let’s for argument’s sake accept the argument that an understanding with the Congress at the national level leads to a loss of four or five Lok Sabha seats for the CPI(M). But is that a valid political ground to weaken the fight against what many in the party would label as “fascistic” forces? Is it not missing the wood for the trees?

On the other hand, if the CPI(M)’s muddle is prompted by an irrational resistance to change, it is then time to ponder. Winds of change are rapidly sweeping across the globe. Even the RSS is showing signs of metamorphosis so as to widen its appeal, especially among the millennials and the aspirational classes.

A recent report in The Telegraph said CPI(M)’s youth wing – Democratic Youth Federation of India – recently “invited actor Prakash Raj not Prakash Karat” to inaugurate its three-day state conference in Hooghly. Raj, a versatile actor, a trenchant critic of BJP, enjoying huge popularity among the youth, as we all know, is not a CPI(M) member.

Meanwhile, the party cadres are growing restless as the factions fight it out among themselves. Sources within the party say that the cadres are unhappy with a couple of individuals holding the CPI(M) hostage, to pander to their whims and fancies. These leaders, the cadres believe, are out of sync with the current political realities.

Politics, especially in India, is no longer practiced in its conventional forms. In consonance with new-age politics balancing dogmatism and pragmatism, a new kind of politics is needed to reach out to the public. It may be a good idea to recall a message once delivered by Mao Zedong, founding father of the People’s Republic of China, to his party colleagues. Mao said if a man wants to succeed in his work, that is, to achieve the anticipated results, “he must bring his ideas into correspondence with the laws of the objective external world; if they do not correspond, he will fail in his practice.”