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The Left is ageing like its leaders

The only way the Left can recover lost ground is by exploiting the weaknesses of its rivals.

editorials Updated: May 22, 2016 20:37 IST
CPI(M)
CPI(M) state headquarter wears a deserted look after the party's defeat in West Bengal assembly elections in Kolkata.(PTI Photo)

There is no surprise in the Left not celebrating its return to power in Kerala. In fact the Left leaders are now more introspective about their severe defeat in West Bengal, where the Left Front, comprising four parties, has been going downhill since 2009. This time the Left fared much worse than its belated ally, the Congress, in the assembly polls. The way the alliance, a half-baked one, was pushed through left much to be desired.

There was little agreement between the Left leaders in West Bengal and the central leadership as to whether such an alliance would be proper because the Congress for the Left had all along been a party of ‘big landlords and industrialists’. Till late the central leaders were against this arrangement. The fact that they knuckled under at the end shows how desperate the state leaders were to prevent their own decimation, which they had been able to get a sense of from the very start.

Read | Left doesn’t get it right in Bengal, fails to rise from the dead

The Left’s chief deficiency has been that it could not endear itself to the urban youth except in pockets. By and large, the aspiring youth have always spurned the Left because they were never comfortable with its doctrinaire approach. Hence the Left’s success in Kerala could be due to the fact that the state has a large ageing population. And now with the socio-political climate having turned more in favour of creating economic growth and jobs, a new crisis is confronting the Left with respect to its theory as well.

Read | Poll results: Political landscape changes in India’s east

The Marxists owe their political existence to a certain history and a certain book and, when thrown against the welter of events, the facts have often not fitted into their theory. It is true that the Indian Marxists tried to tailor Marxism to Indian conditions, which brought them close to being social democrats with an egalitarian agenda. But now there are many parties jostling for the same ideological space. That leaves nothing unique for the Left.

Read | Central committee will examine Bengal’s poll tactics: Brinda Karat

Though the Left parties are not centred round just individuals, they too, like many one-leader parties, do not groom the next generation of leaders. This is the chief problem of the Left in West Bengal. Time was when the CPI(M) had a secretary like Pramode Dasgupta, who in turn promoted Anil Biswas, a highly competent person who had his finger on the pulse.

And it is no coincidence that he died just before the Left had its last success in the state in 2006. But unfortunately he did not leave a successor. So the only way the Left can recover lost ground is by exploiting the weaknesses of its rivals rather than on their ideological strength.