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Left behind on the shelf

india Updated: May 21, 2011 07:14 IST

Hindustan Times
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The Left is well and truly over in not just West Bengal but also in Kerala where it did put up a doughty fight, thanks to a doughty fighter in octogenarian former chief minister VS Achuthanandan.

But in Kerala, the Left's debacle is par for the course, given how the state swings against the incumbent government with predictable regularity. But the Trinamool Congress' Mamata Banerjee's chappal revolution is a different case altogether. The commissars at AKG Bhawan must ponder how and where they have gone so wrong.

The Left, given the history of the party and its eminent figures like EMS Namboordiripad and Jyoti Basu, has always played a crucial role in national politics. But it would seem that the party has now gone into the hands of those who have never won an election beyond their college precincts.

The Left was supposed to be the anchor of a Third Front, a sort of force which would serve as a check and balance in our very fragile democracy. But, starting with the 'historic blunder' of not letting Jyoti Basu become prime minister, the Left seems hellbent on frittering away the advantages it had.

The decision to challenge the Manmohan Singh government on the nuclear issue was once again a question of reading the political climate all wrong. In these elections as in the earlier Lok Sabha one, the Left seems to have misread all the signals. It did not back former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in West Bengal even when the Trinamool tornado hit the state.

The Left has made no attempt to reinvent itself and be relevant to the times. The overwhelming impression of CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat's tenure has been one of arrogance unmatched by any record of delivery. In Kerala, despite a popular surge of sentiment in favour of the former chief minister, the Left tried to sideline him completely, defying electoral logic.

Now that it has written itself out of the national and state scene, the Left would do well to get off its high horse and stop its now meaningless harangue against foreign investment and a pro-West foreign policy.

The Left seems to be labouring under the delusion that it is a national player in its own right. It needs to take a reality check and perhaps, pay more attention to its troops on the ground. It should have taken far more note of the sentiments of the rank and file in West Bengal who could have bought a lot more wisdom to the table than the worthies of AKG Bhawan. In Kerala, it ought to have listened to the workers who were able to discern a pro-Achuthanandan wave than imagine that the general secretary, himself a non-resident Malayalee, would know best.

These elections should give the Left an opportunity to decide how best to keep itself relevant and reclaim its earlier role as the kingmaker in coalition politics. If not, it stands a very strong chance of being further marginalised in a constantly evolving political scenario.