It's probably safe to presume the Left parties know what they are doing. Every turn of the screw brings the country closer to elections, which could go either way for all of the players, specially the Left itself. Is it ready for battle?
Three-and-half years and the face-off over the nuclear deal later, the UPA-Left marriage seems to be on the verge of breakdown. And an early general election appears both unavoidable and inevitable.
The prognosis for the Left is not a very happy one. At a recent meeting of the CPI-M central committee, state unit leaders from across the country said the situation is not conducive for an immediate election. Especially, post-2004, the CPM's grand plan for expanding its base in the north has come a cropper. The wounds of Nandigram are still fresh in Bengal, even though there is a lack of a viable opposition to take advantage of it.
The party itself looks just a bit divided between the CPM central leadership, led by general secretary Prakash Karat, and the Bengal leadership, led by CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. No, not over the stand on the nuclear issue — they are united in their opposition to the deal. The differences are over the consequence of withdrawal of support from the UPA that makes the state units think differently.
The Bengal unit believes the time is not right for elections to the 15th Lok Sabha, where the Left parties might find themselves dislodged by the BSP as the balancing force in a hung House. In Kerala, the feud between CM V.S. Achuthanandan and party leader Pinarayi Vijayan might have been brushed under the carpet, following their suspension from the politburo. But the tension is palpable. Party cadres are sharply divided between the two factions. Vijayan is also under the CBI scanner for his alleged involvement in a corruption case. The state party quite clearly has seen better days. And the Congress-led UDF is waiting to avenge 2004, when it won just one of the 20 Lok Sabha seats.
In a nutshell, the CPM cannot retain its numbers in the Lower House in the event of an early election. But it has read the writing on the wall and has started the groundwork in right earnest.
The Left Front is getting ready — the CPM and its three allies, the CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc. The recent ‘jathas’ against the joint naval exercise with the US was one such poll-oriented move. Conventions and rallies are being held in big and small towns to tell the electorate the country is being made subservient to American objectives in Asia. CPM and CPI leaders are constantly on the move, rapping the UPA regime for its failure to pursue the pro-people element in the CMP.
The Left is rightly not making too much of the nuclear deal — it’s not yet an issue most people understand well. It’s going with the basic issues of ‘roti, kapda and makan’ and, of course, rising prices and the state of the farmers.
The Left’s political alliances are in a flux as well. With the UNPA not really taking off and the Samajwadi Party already having a problem with the AIADMK, the ‘third front’ is not yet a potent political force for the Left to align with in a pre-election, programme-based pact.
Moreover, while the CPM and SP are perceived to be close — Karat is in touch with Mulayam Singh Yadav — the CPI is, very publicly, against the SP. It has as many problems with the TDP in Andhra Pradesh. The Left and the DMK did come together on issues like disinvestments. But whether the Tamil Nadu party would dump the Congress for the Left in an election remains to be seen.
The comrades are ready for battle, a battle brought on by them.