Politics, at least Indian politics today, seems all about never saying never. Or so we thought until CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat proved us wrong. He has clearly said that never, never, never will his party have any truck with the Congress unless it is willing to support, from the outside, a government of which the Left is part of. Now Mr Karat’s battalions in the form of chief ministers like West Bengal’s Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee are little more pragmatic. Mr Bhattacharjee has hinted that the party is not committing to anything right now. Mr Bhattarcharjee’s accommodation probably stems from the fact that he has to enthuse the rank and file that the Left has a fighting chance of a share in the central power pie after the elections. Mr Karat’s opposition so far seems to be that he was thwarted on the nuclear deal that no longer seems a talking point among political parties.
In fact, the BJP has actually said that it would do nothing to reverse the deal if it came to power. The only plank on which the Left seems to be attacking the Congress is that it has pandered to Hindutva forces and, therefore, its secularism is in doubt. This is a laudable objection were it not for the elastic standards the Left has adopted when dealing with other parties. In Kerala, for example, it has quite happily thrown in its lot with an acknowledged communal party like the People’s Democratic Party. It is flirting with allies like the AIADMK, which has had no problem with partnering with the BJP in the past. The Left’s intractable position, as enunciated by Mr Karat, also seems based on an assumption that it will have the numbers that will put it in a commanding position. But this does not seem to be the case in this election. The Left was popularly seen as a spoiler the last time around when it enjoyed unprecedented power at the Centre. It would make more political sense to keep all options open and after the polls go along with the formation that offers an inclusive and secular government.
The chief ministers of both the Left-ruled states, Kerala and West Bengal, have time and again indicated their disconnect with the Left high command in Delhi. Perhaps, it is time that the Left, famed for its discipline, spoke in one voice about what role it will play once elections 2009 are over.