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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 21 New Delhi May 12, 2018

Party Congress and After

Sunday 13 May 2018, by Badri Raina

The following are reflections of a veteran CPI-M sympathiser after the party’s 22nd Congress at Hyderabad.

In an article titled “Two Faces” (The Telegraph, March 27), this writer had speculated on the possibility that the Party Congress of the Communist Party of India-Marxist might well rethink the earlier decision of its Central Committtee not to have any “alliance” or “understanding” with the Indian National Congress going forward.

Happily, intense and informed deliberations within the Party Congress have led to such a rethink; the CPI-M Party line now leaves open the possibility of an “understanding” with the INC, although refusing any “alliance”. This final openness clearly suggests that all factions and State units of the Party have come to recognise the quality and magnitude of the challenge that the Republic faces.

It may be said that whereas the Left overall may not bring great numbers to bolster the secular cause in today’s day, its cognitive standing and probity still carry important weight in influential pockets of the public consciousness and among opinion-makers who may not necessarily subscribe to any hard Leftist doctrine.

It has been the grouse of the Left that the Indian National Congress has been the original perpetrator of Neo-Liberal Economic policies—such as have over the years contributed to deprivations at the ground level—a complaint not without substance. Yet, it has also been apparent, especially with Rahul Gandhi’s fairly insistent articulation on the matter, that the Congress is set to rethink some of the more abrasive features of class rule, and to return policy to address the needs of the vast indigent sections of society. That the erstwhile UPA in which the Congress and the Left were partners gave to the nation an admirable package of rights-based legislations must be recalled as a fact of watershed importance It is of course regrettable that those legislations have not received the sort of delivery that could have substantially transformed millions of lives, but the new positive rethinks within both the Congress and Left camps suggest the possibility of a fresh assay in the near future.

It could not have escaped notice that the Congress of the day seems fiercely critical of the loot that corporate sharks have engaged in to the brazen jeopardy of the people at large—indeed a loot that seemed to be facilitated by complicit sections of the law-enforcement agencies with more than a happy nod from the political heads of the state. This conjunction of perceptions furnishes the ground rules for two grievously urgent alternate agendas: one, to re-establish the primary claim of the people of India to national assets; and, two, to return a fair-minded, autonomous clout to a slew of financial and law-enforcement agencies and democratic institutions which have seen fatal erosion during the last four years. And, might one add, to restore to the nation an intellectual life that may once again thrive in an atmosphere of free and rational explorations of reality.

All that will, of course, require—as the Party Congress of the CPI-M underscores in one voice, that the Bharatiya Janata Party is defeated at the hustings between now and the the General Elections of 2019, and most of all in the General Elections of 2019. The CPI-M’s new Party line must therefore oblige it now to rethink some of the commitments it may have made with respect to State Assembly Elections over the coming year.

Clearly, if the chief objective is to defeat the BJP, it would make little sense to go with the JD(S) in the coming Karnataka poll scheduled for May 12. There is already reason to conclude that the JD(S) may not be averse to teaming up with the BJP in the event that no party gets a clear majority. Thus, every vote in the JD(S) kitty could be a vote for the BJP. Given that an “understanding” is now permissible with the INC, the Left, which cannot be said to have any of its own stakes in Karnataka, must follow the main concern of its new Party line and help the Congrss come to power in Karnataka. Indeed, in the months to come, wherever the Congress is in direct two-party contest with the ruling BJP, the logical course for the Left must be to bolster its chances of defeating the incumbent BJP.

More rigorous analysis will surely follow with respect to other States where neither the Congress nor the BJP are major players. In such States, one would expect all secular formations to make an honest determination of who is best placed where, and to pool resources to ensure one-on-one electoral contests.

The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012. Thereafter he wrote two more books, Idea of India Hard to Beat: Republic Resilient and Kashmir: A Noble Tryst in Tatters.

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