CPI(M) struggling to get it right
There is a faint whiff of mothballs surrounding the tug of war in the CPI(M) between its general secretary Prakash Karat and senior leader Sitaram Yechury. They seem unable to agree on whether the political-tactical line adopted by the party in 1978 had shortcomings or not and if it hampered its expansion outside its strongholds of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. Now the two can argue the merits and demerits till the cows come home but the reality is that the Left’s political space is shrinking by the day. Its salient ideology — that of pro-poor policies, equitable distribution of wealth and so on — has been taken over by the centrist and right-wing parties, and very successfully at that. The major social welfare schemes in recent times have been drafted by the Congress and now the BJP. The regional parties have their own versions of pro-people schemes which were once considered the copyright of the Left. The real crisis in the Left is that it has simply run out of steam, it has lost its people-connect and it has no second-rung of leadership.
Under the glacial Karat, the party has steadily gone downhill, falling in its bastions of Kerala and West Bengal. In fact, the magnitude of the loss in West Bengal is such that it will take a very long time and a great deal of innovative thinking for the party to even begin to challenge those who have taken over the political reins.
Talk of landlord-bourgeois parties and their suitability or lack of it as allies for the CPI(M) seems from another era, a past on which India has firmly shut the door. Both in West Bengal and in Kerala today, the Left is becoming synonymous with its obstructionist labour policies, its propensity to call strikes and hartals and make life difficult for people and its inability to be accommodative in politics. These are the issues that the Left needs to discuss and recalibrate. However, the fortunate part is that there is still space for a Left point of view in Indian politics. The unfortunate part for the Left is that others have picked up the issues and run with them.