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The story of the Left is one of self-indictment

Blaming the BJP for taking its vote base proves that it couldn’t shift the narrative

editorials Updated: May 30, 2019 20:30 IST
Hindustan Times
How did the CPI(M) and its fellow travellers in the communist Left in India reach this pass? (Hindustan Times)

Jyoti Basu, India’s most successful communist leader described elections as “baptism by fire” in his autobiography. Communist Party of India (Marxist), the party he founded along with his comrades, has won just one Lok Sabha seat on its own – the two seats from Tamil Nadu are due to the alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK) – in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. How did the CPI(M) and its fellow travellers in the communist Left in India reach this pass?

The CPI(M) leadership believes that the people have been hoodwinked by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which managed to “successfully shift the popular narrative away from the multitude of livelihood issues that the last five years of the NDA government imposed” according to a statement issued by the CPI(M) dated May 26-27. While the comrades might have been trying to shift the blame on the masses for the Left’s decimation, the statement is actually a self-indictment. After all, what prevented them from convincing the people against allowing the BJP to shift the popular narrative?

Three factors, one long term, one medium term and one short-term, are behind the Left’s collapse.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and roll-out of liberalisation in the economy, the Left has failed to reinvent its politics. While serious problems such as inequalities and unemployment still persist, most Indians are materially better off than they were three decades ago. The Left’s rhetoric is still at odds with this reality.

Ironically, in West Bengal where the Left was in power from 1977-2011, the Left invested all its political stock in trying to build capitalism by coercion. Self goals in the name of defending the goof-ups in Singur and Nandigram prevented the Left from staging a recovery in the state, which has now chosen the BJP as the favourite anti-incumbent force.

The Kerala story is slightly different. The Left has paid for a standing with the right of women to pray in the Sabarimala shrine despite widespread Hindu opposition to it. It remains to be seen whether the Left in Kerala is still willing to defend its ideological stance.

First Published: May 30, 2019 20:29 IST