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Home > 2023 > CPI(M) moving in a blind alley in Bengal | Arun Srivastava

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 39 September 23, 2023

CPI(M) moving in a blind alley in Bengal | Arun Srivastava

Saturday 23 September 2023


Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the CPI(M) at the 23rd Congress of the party held in Kerala in April 2022, had emphasised “isolate and defeat the BJP” as the central responsibility of the Marxists. He had also pointed out that BJP utilised its government to aggressively further the Hindutva communal agenda of the fascistic RSS and the Modi government has been imposing full-fledged authoritarianism trampling constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights and civil liberties of the people.

But the discernibility of this resolve is apparently lacking in the practices and programmes of the party. Through media retorts and statements, the leadership makes the people trust its reliability and commitment, but the actions of the leaders often bely the hope. The latest example has been its polit bureau’s resolve not to join INDIA’s highest body, the coordination committee. INDIA was formed by the 28 opposition parties to ensure the electoral defeat of the BJP at the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

True enough it has not come as a shock. CPI(M) has always nursed a non-conformist approach towards major national issues. The decision of the party not to be part of the apex coordination committee of INDIA block was announced when the other constituents had already swung into electoral mode and gering up for the final assault. If at all the CPI(M) nursed some sort of reservation about the formation of INDIA, the leadership would have made it known in the beginning itself.

None of the leaders of the parties looked at the formation through their ideological prism, except the CPI(M). Naturally they ought to be, as being the only political party working within the framework of Marxist ideology. But the decision is really ubiquitous. Is not it; while they decided not to be a part of the apex coordination committee, they at the same time revealed that they would remain members of various sub committees of the opposition block. This Marxist explanation is really inexplicable. If they have some kind of reservation towards the INDIA, it is quite natural they should have withdrawn from the sub committees too. This they did not do as it would have antagonised the entire opposition rank.

Intriguingly the secretary of the Bengal unit, the dominant group in the party, Md Selim said: “We are constantly saying that this is not a political or organisational structure. INDIA is meant to build mass opinion and a movement against the BJP and fascist forces. Not just political parties but also individuals and non-political organisations can be part of this movement.” Otherwise too none of the opposition leaders have ever described it as a party. This is a platform to coordinate the actions of the opposition parties and ensure the defeat of the BJP at the 2024 election. As the CPI(M) leaders themselves confess that INDIA is not a party then what is the problem that makes them to dissociate from the apex coordination committee.

If their ideological commitment does not allow them to be identified with the INDIA, in all fairness the leadership should have refrained from participating at the opposition meets and also sought a clear explanation from the organisers about its structural character, its immediate task and the ideological orientation and commitment. Being seasoned politicians, the Marxist leaders are aware of the damaging impact of their stand on the fight against the BJP, which they describe as fascist and authoritarian. One wonders how could the personal problem of some leader would over shadow the prime mission of the opposition block.

Even a layman is aware of the compulsion to name the platform as INDIA. The people of the country were feeling frustrated and dejected at the functioning of the past opposition alliances. They were formed to break. The people disbelieved their durability and intent. This time the situation is entirely different. The opposition is faced with an enemy which is more organised, deep rooted and enjoying wide mass support. Till Rahul Gandhi launched his Bharat Jodo Yatra, the people were convinced of the BJP’s marketing that there is none in the opposition rank who can challenge Narendra Modi.

It was in this backdrop the opposition with the intent to inoculate the people with the trust that this alliance was different from the past, that it was christened as INDIA. Of course, it also aimed at binding together all the divergent forces. It is a unpleasant reality that the entire opposition would have been completely washed out in 2024 election if they had not visualised to float INDIA. It is INDIA that has put the RSS and BJP on backfoot.

If at all the CPI(M) leaders feel that they are capable to take the BJP head on, they should have gone ahead with the task long back. India witnessed a number of communist struggles in the past, but the nine-year rule of Modi has provided them with the golden opportunity to expand and reach out to the poor and proletariat. But the CPI(M)missed the opportunity. In the wake of spread of corona menace, it miserably failed to identify with the suffering migrant labourers. No doubt they would not have been expected to give a call for mass movement against the apathy of the Modi government, but this had provided the right opportunity for the left to reach out and connect with the starving labourers.The leftist trade unions kept aloof of the historic farmers’ movement. Of course on some occasions they showed their solidarity with the farmers in public, but it was more of the nature of tokenism. It was the middle class psyche that prevailed.

A closer analysis of the stand and statements of the CPI(M) leaders would make it amply clear that they have been suffering with the traditional virus of “confusion” and “lack of clarity”. While they have decided not to be part of the part of apex coordination committee of INDIA, but at the same time a central committee member of the party said; “INDIA cannot function as a political party, it can only be a platform. INDIA has been set up to stop the BJP and save our Constitution. Parties which are ethically and politically not the same are sharing the table as they have a common agenda to defeat the BJP. But, in a diversified country like India, you should not expect that all parties will be united on all points. In Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party will fight against the Congress. The same will happen in Delhi. In West Bengal, we will fight against the TMC. The CPI(M) will fight against the Congress in Kerala.”

His observation reflects his political impoverishment. No political party or its leader has ever said that INDIA was a party. Does the CPI(M) believe that Congress or Samajwadi Party or NCP or TMC or DMK will finish their separate identities. Regional party would continue to maintain their separate identity. They represent the aspirations of the people of their respective states.

The dichotomy in CPI(M) statement nevertheless provides the impression that it is suffering with the fear of losing the identity. Already completely pushed to the margin of the state politics, they are scared that their sharing seats with TMC would completely finish the party. Else there is no reason for the party to speak against coordination committee of INDIA.

The polit bureau which resolved not to be part of the coordination committee, after the meeting came out with the statement; “The Politburo has decided to work for the further consolidation and expansion of the INDIA bloc to strengthen the efforts to safeguard the secular, democratic character of the Indian Republic, the Constitution, democracy and people’s fundamental rights and civil liberties. This requires that the BJP be kept away from controlling the Union government and state. The Politburo decided to further strengthen these efforts.”

The Politburo added that it endorsed the CPI(M) position at the last three meetings of the INDIA bloc in Patna, Bengaluru and Mumbai, “to organise a series of public meetings across the country and to mobilise the people to ensure the defeat of the BJP in the forthcoming elections”. It added: “Efforts should be focused to further expand the INDIA bloc and also to draw in significant sections of the people’s movements in this effort. While all decisions will be taken by the leaders of the constituents, there should be no organisational structures that will be an impediment for such decisions.”

The contradictory statements make it abundantly clear the confusion and uncertainty that grips the CPI(M) leadership. The CPI(M) is not ready to share seats with Mamata’s TMC in Bengal instead they would have alliance with the Congress and Indian Secular Front (ISF). How could the CPI(M) believe that Congress’s national leadership allow the state unit to go against Mamata, a major partner of INDIA.

Some experts believe that this a tactical ploy to create pressure of Mamata to give the number of seats the CPI(M) leaders demand, which is certainly not possible and also feasible. It is really irony that the CPI(M) leaders are inflicting severe damage to INDIA in their pursuit to present them as the real Marxist revolutionaries. Its central committee member Sujan Chakraborty alleged Trinamul has a secret entente with the BJP, in order to save its own leaders from the central probe agencies. He said Left Front constituent would do its best to strengthen the anti-BJP bloc INDIA nationally, but would maintain its distance from the Trinamul Congress in Bengal. His claim is preposterous. How could a party which has no following and support base in other states vouch to work for the victory of INDIA in those states.

It is certain that the Marxist leaders live in their make-believe world. This is the reason the CPI(M) has been consistently on decline. It would be utopian to believe that CPI(M) would retrieve its lost ground in future. This presumption is farfetched. The CPI(M) leaders who believe in material dialectics must comprehend the economic development and its dimensions, changing character of the class and the support base. It must also analyse its role in drawing the new political line.

Sujan says; “Each state has its own ground realities. The situation in Kerala and Bengal is not similar to states in north India. We are a national party, quite like the Congress, and we believe we have a much larger, crucial role to play in the fight against the BJP”. If his claims are to be believed he ought to define the role his party played at all Idia level to counter the BJP during the nine year rule of Modi. Following party’s avowed anti-Trinamul stand in the state he said; “We are not going to waver from our stand against the BJP and all communal forces across the nation, and we remain committed to our equidistance from the BJP and Trinamul”. Sad enough the CPI(M) nurses the feeling that opposing Trinmool they would succeed in retrieving their lost ground.

In sharp contrast to the dogmatic political line of CPI(M), the CPIU(ML-Liberation) has been more pragmatic. With the resolve to fight RSS fascism and saffron authoritarianism the Liberation will prefer to continue with the coordination committee of INDIA and obviously it would have seat sharing relation with TMC. Like the CPI(M) the CPI(ML-Liberation) does not suffer with any ambiguity. The immediate task before the forces which claim to fight the communalism and authoritarianism is to defeat the BJP.

The polit bureau of the CPI(ML-Liberation) which met in Patna only a day back holds the view that all other differences amongst the constituents of INDIA could be sorted out after the Lok Sabha election. The party general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya holds “we are in the coordination committee of the INDIA and fight the Lok Sabha election together with other constituents. All other issues would be looked into after the Lok Sabha elections”.

Dipankar was candid in his observation that it would be utopian to believe that the saffron onslaught could be checked without having any cooperation with the TMC in Bengal and RJD-JD(U) combine in Bihar. They are the major political forces and have to the main ingredient of the grouping opposed to the fascist rule of the RSS and BJP.

In both the states, the Liberation would field its candidates. While in Bengal it is obviously not in the position to exercise any tactical pressure on TMC chief Mamata Banerjee to accede to their demand, in Bihar they have already written to Nitish Kumar about their priorities and also mentioned the seats they would prefer to contest. The fact cannot be ignored that in Bihar they are a major force and had won 12 assembly seats with a vote percentage of 3.16 making it fifth largest party in assembly. They had contested the 2020 Assembly election as part of the Mahagathbandhan, an alliance of the UPA and the leftist parties led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

The Liberation intends to focus on central Bihar and also on Siwan in north Bihar. Central Bihar once the cradle of Naxalism in Bihar, had been witness to killings of the dalits and the downtrodden in 1990s during Lalu-Rabri regime. Several ML grassroots workers had to sacrifice their lives in dozens of carnages. Even the die-hard supporters and a section of the RJD and JD(U) leaders confess that Liberation being a part of the Mahagatbandhan helped the dalit and EBC votes swing in favour of the alliance.

Unfortunately, the electoral strength of the Left camp has also suffered a huge erosion at a time when the BJP has reached its peak. Dipankar nevertheless holds; “The erosion in the electoral strength does not however signify any ideological-political irrelevance or obsolescence of the Left. The dramatic decline in the numbers of Left MPs and MLAs has been triggered almost exclusively by the CPI(M)-led Left’s exit from power in West Bengal and Tripura and has its own specific contexts. In West Bengal the CPI(M) had first got hugely alienated from its own electoral base in the face of accumulated anti-incumbency of thirty-four years of rule compounded by major policy mistakes.

Liberation leadership is sure that the stance of the CPI(M) on Bengal and especially against Mamata Banerjee would not have any adverse impact on the prospect of the INDIA block in the state. According to them, one thing is certain that the national Congress leadership would not allow the situation to drift and help the BJP to consolidate its hold on the state. The change of the mood amongst the Muslims and their shift of allegiance towards the Congress has brightened the prospect of the Congress. The national leadership of Congress is not willing to waste the opportunity of retrieve its support base.

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