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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 20, May 8, 2010

Can the Left become the National Alternative?

Monday 10 May 2010, by Chaturanan Mishra

The country is heading towards a political vacuum in the sense that the two national level parties—the Congress and BJP—are weakening day by day. The Congress, a secular party, is no longer in a position to mobilise the masses to protect their rights, even the legal rights, and the bureaucracy has become so much anti-people and corrupt that even the funds sanctioned for the public do not reach them. Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime Minister had said that only 16 paise out of one rupee reach the targeted beneficiary. The people’s representatives have become ineffective as the mass conscious-ness is absent to guide them. Thus democracy is no longer related to running the adminis-tration—it is only confined to voting in elections.

The Congress is bereft of any leadership capable of mobilising the people as in the past. The Prime Minister is unable to win a Lok Sabha election even for himself. From Tripura to Gujarat the Congress has governments in only three States—Assam, Delhi and Haryana. If one looks at the eastern coast, that is, from Bengal to Tamil Nadu, the Congress is in power in just one State—Andhra Pradesh.

The position of the BJP has declined more sharply. Viewing its fast deterioration the RSS took open control over its organisation but the fact is that the country cannot once again be mobilised for the Ram temple or similar issues.

Regional parties like the ones headed by Lalooji, Mulayamji and Mayawatiji are also going downhill with every passing day.

It must be admitted that the Left parties too have become anaemic. Generations of Leftists fought each other for the correct ideology but none succeeded. They only pity each other’s leaders. However, this time, barring the CPI-ML as well as the CPI (Maoist) [which has a different programme], all other Left parties decided to join together and succeeded in building up a national resistance against price rise by mobilising lakhs of people and activising their cadres. I don’t know if they thereby feel that only if they are united they have any future; and hence all the Left parties should merge into one party and think ‘what next’? This has to be decided by the Left leadership.

The Left parties are decades old. The CPI, the oldest party, is more than 80 years old but it is still limping. Thus some new methods should be evolved to ensure better growth.

I want to offer some suggestions as a precaution. Now since our cadres and masses are active, the future struggles should not be like the ‘touch-and-go’ satyagrahas we have witnessed earlier. The new struggles should force the government to respond.

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It must also be acknowledged that in this period while all parties are on the wane the Maoists succeeded in spreading to 200 districts of the country as per the government figures. We correctly criticise the government for not carrying out basic reforms in the areas now under Maoist sway, but the question is: why did we fail to do the same in West Bengal? We aptly criticise the government for not being able to check suicides by the kisans but why could we not organise any effective resistance to this phenomenon? I want that the leaders should not only release press statements and hold committee meetings. They should themselves lead the struggles to emerge as national leaders. It must be recognised that failure to organise such struggles has allowed the Maoists to grow in areas that were under our influence only some time ago.

We should not forge any united front with casteist parties for a few seats here and there as this alters the image of the party as one of those parties and not a party of a different type projecting different programmes.

I have suggested earlier that the Left should have a specific programme for realising ‘inclusive growth’. Higher growth is essential to fight poverty. On the basis of our ‘inclusive growth’ programme if necessary a broad mass organisation should be formed to cover even the areas where we have not yet entered. Such a mass organisation should include non-communist progressive elements who are supporters of our ‘inclusive growth’ agenda in the main. They may even make suggestions to improve it. After all, wisdom is not our monopoly.

From what I have proposed above it does not mean that all regional parties are casteist or reactionary. Many regional parties are formed because the area covering the region was neglected by the government for long and this forced them to demand separate States. But separate State does not always ipso facto mean that it would be growing well. A glance at the situation in Jharkhand would make my point clear.

A tribal area, if it is as big as a district, may be brought under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution so that the District Councils can act against moneylenders and others perpetrating exploitation and atrocities. They may also have some rights over the minerals in the region as provided in the Constitution.

The caste problem is still very serious. Those belonging to a specific caste want development in their own casteist way in order to have MLAs, MPs, Ministers from their particular caste. They also want leaders from their caste. We have to look into the problems of various castes and genuine grievances should not only be supported but we must also fight for their redressal. In the past we supported the Mandal Commission’s recommendations, the reservation formula upheld by Shri Karpoori Thakur but did not agitate for those; in fact we lost even our base when the agitation was launched by the caste leaders who thereby came to power.

To conclude, I mean the time has come when we have to change our old methods of functioning so that the Left can become a genuine national force and eventually the national alternative in the course of time.

The author, a veteran Communist leader, was the Union Agriculture Minister in the United Front Governmentat at the Centre (1996-98). He was also the President of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) for sometime.

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