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Turning a paler shade of red

india Updated: May 17, 2009 22:34 IST

Hindustan Times
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Reason has always existed, said Karl Marx, but not always in a reasonable form. Something CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat would do well to ponder over. From day one of these elections, Mr Karat has been playing the role of naysayer to perfection. It is a role he has had plenty of practice in when the Left propped up the UPA government until the nuclear deal came along. In the deal that ended India’s nuclear isolation, Mr Karat saw an imperialistic plot designed to enslave India. In the UPA’s economic reforms, the Left spotted a pro-rich bias. And in foreign policy, it saw India becoming a vassal of the West.

The gentle Manmohan Singh showed that he was made of sterner stuff when he refused to back down in the face of ultimatums from AKG Bhawan and carried the day. He has carried the day again and Mr Karat has been left whistling in the dark. Thanks to his obduracy and much-hyped stance that he would not support either the Congress or the BJP, the Left is today up the creek without a paddle. Its bastions of Kerala and West Bengal have fallen and its cadres demoralised. In Kerala, the Karatian philosophy of aligning with rank communal elements harmed the party and in West Bengal, Singur and Nandigram did it in. In both states the damage has been extensive and will take years to rectify. Why, then any reasonable person will ask, did Mr Karat bring things to such a head? Is it that he lacks political savvy? Clearly not, he has been in the game for too long. The only logical conclusion is that the give and take of electoral politics is something alien to Mr Karat who has never had to fight an election beyond university. In the outgoing UPA government, the Left had sweeping powers at the Centre, the likes of which it had never seen.

The writing on the wall for the Left is clear. Its hidebound dogmas no longer excite the Indian voter, especially the youth. Mr Karat would do well to try and reorient the Left’s philosophy to reflect the aims and aspirations of today’s Indians. Verdict 2009 is quite clear. The shibboleths of the past have been rejected. So formations like the Third Front, based on grievances of the past, have got short shrift from the electorate. A stint in Opposition should be a sobering lesson for Mr Karat. Going by Marxian theology is one thing, being a relevant player in Indian politics is quite another.