In the worst-ever performance by the CPI(M) since its inception in 1964, the party has lost two of its three bastions – West Bengal and Kerala. And also lost, it seems, is the ‘Karat shining’ myth.
For, as 61-year-old Prakash Karat has failed miserably in his first major political test, he will have to do a lot of explaining on the fall of the Left's tally from 61 in 2004 to 25 in just four years.
During the last three decades, the Left managed to remain a relevant political force with a consistent tally of 45-50 seats in the Lok Sabha, thanks to Karat’s predecessor, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, who catapulted the Left to the centre-stage.
The major damage was done particularly during the period since July, with Karat taking three decisions that shook the world of the Left.
# Withdrawing of support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) over the nuclear deal. # Forging of new alliances and dumping of the old ones. # Cobbling up a non-existent Third Front.
But Karat said, “Our party works on the principle of collective responsibility. We have suffered a major setback. This necessitates serious examination of the reasons for the party’s poor performance.”
It was Karat who personally ended the ties with the DMK and opted for the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu in spite of some state leaders’ reservations. Even Karunanidhi’s efforts to reason with him fell on deaf ears.
In Andhra Pradesh, Karat insisted on aligning with the TDP and the TRS, again ignoring the state unit, which favoured actor Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party. The result: For the first time in more than two decades, the CPI(M) has just a single MLA in the assembly.
In July 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said about the CPI(M) during the confidence vote: “They need to ponder over the company they are forced to keep because of miscalculations by their general secretary.”
In West Bengal, as the gulf widened between the Congress and the CPI(M), Mamata Banerji saw her chance of hitting the CPI(M) hard where it hurts – West Bengal – by preventing the anti-Left vote from getting divided.
What’s more, the failure of Karat to end the bitter infighting in Kerala resulted in the Left’s near complete rout in the state.
The first salvo against Karat’s leadership has been fired by none other than Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who said, “He should be out now.” Chatterji was expelled for refusing to quit the post of the Speaker, following the CPI(M)’s withdrawal of support to the UPA.
The coming days are definitely not going to be easy for the venerable CPI (M) general secretary.