As India goes into the general elections, it is crystal clear that there is growing competition among the smaller parties to occupy the “third pole” — which was once occupied by the Left — of Indian politics. As things stand today, the CPI(M) has almost conceded that space to the political start-up, AAP, in north India, and a large extent to the Trinamool Congress in Bengal.
However, this is not a sudden development: while in Bengal, the party paid for the mistakes it made during its 34-year rule, in the northern parts of the country, AAP arrived at the right time in the right place and sprinted away with the Left’s political agenda. Take, for example, Delhi and Haryana, the states where AAP is expected to do well in the elections.
In both these states, the Left has been non-existent for almost two-three decades; its party structure is in a shambles and bereft of any new ideas. The same holds true for Punjab and this is also an area where AAP is said to be expanding its reach.
In fact, over the years, the “third space” has been expanding, while space for the third front, of which the CPI(M) is a central constituent, has been shrinking.
Whether the senior leadership of the CPI(M) wants to accept it or not, the truth is that its slogan — India needs a non-Congress, non-BJP secular front — has lost its cache with the voters.
On the other hand, AAP, since its inception has been talking about everything that the Left has espoused all these years — principled politics, corruption, clean governance, the poor and the marginalised — the only difference being, AAP has done it more effectively than the Left.
It has cleverly moved into and taken control of the natural space of dissent, reaching out to the disaffected lobbies; be it the nuclear lobby in Koodankulam or the green lobby, even as the Left lost touch with grassroots activists/lobby groups.
In an interview in January, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat himself accepted that many of the virtues that AAP claims for itself like a “clean image, denying the perks and privileges of office and decentralising power have been practised by the Left from the outset”. But unfortunately when it comes to reclaiming that space, the Left seems to have clearly run out of ideas.