In the wake of the recent Lok Sabha elections, nothing seems to be going right for either the main Opposition party, the BJP, or for an erstwhile kingmaker, the CPI(M). While the BJP, warts and all, seems to be struggling to steady itself, the CPI(M) does not appear to have got beyond airy-fairy observations of what went wrong in its just-concluded politburo meeting. While the focus of the meet should have been on how to recover lost space in its traditional stomping grounds like Kerala and West Bengal and reconnect with the younger generation, it came up with diktats on how to lead a simple life and avoid ostentation. The issue of ideological purity, of course, featured in the context of how today’s Left cadre had got things on a platter.
But the problem that’s crippled the Left is not that of lifestyle or ‘alien trends and habits.’ It is that there is an enormous disconnect between its politburo and the rank and file that helps it win elections. While those making crucial decisions for the party do not have to face the electorate, they have no qualms in telling leaders on the ground what to do. In recent times, many of the politburo’s actions like weighing in against Kerala Chief minister V.S. Achu-thanandan in favour of state party boss Pinarayi Vijayan have caused a great deal of resentment among the cadres. The short shrift given to a popular CM like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has also not gone down well with West Bengal CPM leaders. The factionalism which was once the bane of less disciplined parties now seems to have the CPI(M) in a death grip. Yet, at no point of time in the meeting did General secretary Prakash Karat and his supporters admit that they may have made serious errors of judgement which have cost the party dearly.
It is vital for the functioning of our democratic system that major parties like the CPI(M) play their role as an effective opposition. Of course, it has raised several economic issues in recent times, but it would seem that given the disarray in the party, no one is taking it too seriously. The very fact that neither Mr Bhattacharjee nor Mr Vij-ayan attended the meeting undermines its credibility. Mr Karat owes it to the party that he has brought to its knees to come up with a credible formula for course correction. Hopefully, when the new rectification draft is put before the Central Committee in late October, the party will have regained its will to move beyond its recent loss.