Losing the high moral ground
As far as explanations go, we have certainly heard better ones than some of those the Left came up with about its newfound public show of affection for the BJP. It said that it has often fraternised with trade unions belonging to different political formations, including the BJP, on common issues. What seems more apparent is that in its haste to condemn the UPA's policies, the Left appears to have forgotten its core principles.
It was quite a sight recently to see the stalwarts of the Left happily sharing a platform with leaders from its arch foe, the BJP. Undoubtedly, they were all protesting against the same thing, the UPA's economic reforms. But, perception matters greatly in politics. So much so, that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has often shied away from sharing a platform with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi even though they are in the same political coalition and both are strong proponents of development in their states. The latest protest against the UPA government's economic policies is not trade union-driven, it is a national protest. The Left appears to be losing what little political touch it once had. The wily Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav hinted at a possible Third Front in the next election without committing himself to anything, and out comes the CPI(M)'s general secretary Prakash Karat saying that Mr Yadav would be the leader of such a front. Many who saw the Left leaders joyously mingling with the BJP's worthies were left wondering what happened to its once rigid stand against so-called anti-secular elements.
Now it is no one's contention that the ends do not justify the means, especially in politics. But, it is the Left which has made a virtue of its uncompromising stand on such issues as secularism and, of course, those hoary old chestnuts western hegemony and imperialist tendencies. In fact, such was its aversion to nuclear cooperation with the US that it pulled out of UPA 1. Has it forgotten that the BJP has no qualms about pursuing a nuclear path, perhaps even more aggressively than the Congress? The latest public display of bonhomie between the Left and Right has done a great deal to erase the high moral ground that the former has always tried to occupy. The only problem is that given its dwindling support base, many within the ranks of the Left are unhappy about what is seen as ceding its core competence. Or perhaps, its increasing irrelevance as a national political force has forced a certain pragmatism upon it, a sense that there are no permanent friends and foes in politics.