The CPI (M), we all know by now, is comfortable playing its role of the conscientious, 'real' Opposition. But sometimes, it becomes terribly difficult to figure out whether this opposition is directed at the haute bourgeoisie party that heads the UPA coalition at the Centre or at the process of democracy that the Left decided to be a part of some time ago. We're confused because the Big Brother of the Left Front has decided to take up the battle against what it deems to be the obstructor to a free and fair democratic process: the Election Commission. Strange as it may sound, especially coming from the CPI (M), the party has questioned various aspects of the EC's functioning in a detailed note that includes the role of poll observers, the commission's power to take disciplinary action against errant poll officers and its "power over elected governments". The reason for such heartburn seems linked to events that took place in the recent past - before and during the assembly elections in West Bengal, in particular.
The Left had not been pleased by the five-stage staggering of those polls. There was also much grumbling about the number of security forces posted at poll booths. For a party at the helm of a government not used to having representatives of the State peering over its shoulders to ensure a free and fair elections, the EC's actions must have seemed like an unnecessary intrusion. It certainly was made to feel unwelcome. But didn't the whopping victory at the assembly polls legitimise the Left's democratic credentials even to its critics? The Left could hardly see things that way.
Instead of legitimisation, it spoke of confirmation - and the sneer reverberated all around. So why does it want the EC's head on a platter? One reason could be that the EC is slated to come out with its ruling on the office of profit issue. The CPI (M) had earlier accused the commission of "unwarranted exercise of power" for accepting a complaint that charged some of its MPs of holding offices of profit. It has also brought in the business of 'election interference' as part of its war against the Election Commission. This should keep some of the CPI (M)'s renegade cadre-level leaders in West Bengal happy without Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee having to cook up a new role for them. The only problem is that no one thinks the EC to be a devilish entity - not the people; and, one suspects, not the 'real' leaders of the Left.