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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 44 New Delhi October 20, 2018

CPI-M not a party of India, but of Kerala only

Friday 19 October 2018

by Arun Srivastava

The Tripura election was a big setback This has been the confession of the General Secretary of the CPI-M, Sitaram Yechury, just at the time his political line of having understanding with the Congress was being challenged by his colleague, Prakash Karat. True enough, Karat should have taken the lesson from the BJP how it succeeded in building a total anti-Left Front.

The Marxists may allege that they made all sorts of unscrupulous deals with all, including tribal extremist organisations, and they collected everybody and made it into a one-to-one contest. “(But in) the last three years, apart from Tripura, there has been a big growth in movements and struggles. The working class had gone on two industrial strikes, the peasantry is up in a battle, our kisan sabha has been very active in mobilising the peasantry and conducting the struggles.... At another level, the mass organisations of Left parties and people’s movements such as that of Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy...they have come together and formed a big front called the Jan Andolan, Jan Adhikar.... For the first time, after many decades there is a very strong bonding between the Dalit movements and the Left.” But the Marxists could not acquire the gain.

On the contrary the BJP went from strength to strength. The Marxist leaders held that unless they defeat the BJP electorally, how can you stop its policies, which you say are anti-people? The BJP governments are in the hands of fascistic RSS. “We have said that appropriate electoral tactics would be worked out to maximise anti-BJP votes. But this election tactics will not have any understanding or alliance with the Congress.”

One thing is absolutely clear: that the Marxists live in a utopian, in their own make-believe world. They have never been nearer to the truth and ground realities. This is their history. They split the CPI, parted company with the Marxist-Leninists. There are many such instances. They always spoke of revolution, but refrained from practicing it or organising the agricultural labourers. They have an organisation of the khet mazdoors, but it is a paper tiger. The leaders heading this organisation have nothing to do with the khet mazdoors.

Like any other Indian political party, they have been surviving primarily on the back of the middle class. The petty bourgeoisie have been the working class for them. Their main back-bone has been employees of the banks, LIC and government establishments. Their supporters have ben primarily the babus of these institutions who have a high social and economic status. Their bargaining power has been tremendous. They can force these institutions to bow down. They have been practicing economism in the name of trade unionism.

These employees eulogised and followed Marx-Lenin-Mao in their offices. But once out of the office, they behaved like the petty bourgeoisie and followed the life-style of feudal elements. It is a bare fact that most them did not emulate Marxism. Most of them got indoctrinated to Marxism by listening to the lectures of their trade union leaders who usually spoke of the monetary loss and gains. This is the reason why they could never impart ideological philosophy among the rank and file. The shattering and fall of the Left bastion in West Bengal is just an ideal example. The people were disillusioned to such an extent that they did not put up any resistance; instead they joined the TMC in bulk.

An insight into the functioning of the party would reveal that the party has never been consistent in challenging its opponents ideo-logically. The Marxist-Leninist-Maoists have exposed their ideological confusion on numerous occasions. The same thing happened in their evaluation of the BJP and RSS. While Yechury described the RSS as a fascistic force Karat outrightly rejected his line. Some leaders believe conditions for fascism do not exist in India.

Yechury mentioned: “What I am saying is in the party programme, (which) describes the BJP as no ordinary political party because its reins are controlled by the fascistic RSS. The RSS has a fascistic agenda. That is our party’s programmatic formulation. What we are saying is: fascism is the jettisoning of parliamentary democracy and replacing it by a terroristic dictatorship...that has not yet happened, but fascistic tendencies and trends is what the RSS represents, and they are controlling this government.”

An erudite politician, Yechury during a party meet had observed: “The CPM stands not for the ‘Communist Party of Kerala (Marxist)’ but for the ‘Communist Party of India (Marxist).” His observation is enough to construe that the situation prevailing inside the party is not conducive, else he would not have used this phrase. However, the election results to the Tripura Assembly have made it amply clear that the CPI-M is a State party of Kerala, the political fiefdom of Marixt leader Prakash Karat. It is simply maintaining the façade of being an all-India party.

Even a layman could have realised and understood the importance of the party winning the Tripura election. After the fall of the West Bengal red citadel, Tripura has been the only State in the Indian context that could have salvaged some pride of the party. And this could have been by pursuing the political line of Yechury. But following Karat’s ideological line proved to be suicidal for the party. No doubt anti-incumbency played a major role in ensuring the party’s defeat party in Tripura. What had significantly hurt the party in Tripura was the impression that the CPI-M is a divided house and Manik Sarkar does not enjoy the support of the party leadership. With Karat pushing Yechury to the corner, Bengal has also lost the moral right to guide the Tripura unit.

With the BJP winning the Tripura elections, an impression is being created that the entire North-East region has been saffronised. No doubt saffron has won Tripura but failed to impress the voters in Nagaland and Meghalaya. In Nagaland it could win 11 seats and two in Meghalaya out of the 59 seats in each of the State. Besides Karat, it is the Congress leadership which should be blamed for this debacle. Like Goa this time too they lost the game in Meghalaya. The arrogance of the Congress leadership has been primarily responsible for this situation. It is beyond comprehension how they could fail to strike a deal with Sangma. It was the arrogance of the local Congress leaders that did not allow Ahmed Patel to offer the office of Chief Minister to him. From the beginning the Congress had left open the space in Tripura providing the opportunity to the BJP to win over the Congress support-base. It is a fact that even some RSS and BJP leaders were sceptical of the victory. Even they feel that if the Congress had proactively campaigned against the CPI-M, the situation would have been different.

What was most unfortunate was that while the CPI-M could not counter BJP chief Amit Shah’s campaign that with the CPI-M in office, Tripura would be ruled from Bangladesh, the Congress also miserably failed to reach out to the Hindu voters allaying such a probability.

The defeat of the CPI-M sent a clear message that in order to defeat the BJP in the 2019 elections it is imperative that the Marxist leaders cannot furrow their own whimsical wishes. They have to evolve a common strategy. What is most important is that Karat’s Kerala unit should refrain from dictating to the central leadership how the party should fight the Sangh-BJP nationally. It is really miserable that for establishing his supremacy on the party, Karat is forcing it to the point of complete disintegration. Karat must learn to look beyond Kerala. It is really a matter of shame that the Karat faction has fielded some young leaders to humiliate Yechury. He was absolutely correct in saying; “In Kerala, the Congress may be the main enemy but that is not the situation in the rest of the country. The RSS and BJP are trying to establish a Hindu Rashtra. The nation cannot go forward without defeating them.”

Anti-incumbency will finally be attributed as the primary reason for the defeat in Tripura. But more than that it is the disarray of the secular forces that led to this situation. The policies of the previous Congress governments at the Centre no doubt have been basically responsible for the present situation in Tripura. The State Government was severely deprived of revenue and funds for development and even today the State does not have adequate medical facilities. The Marxists have been in power for 25 years, but it is also a fact that the Congress never fought for the benefit of the local people.

In this election the State Congress virtually shifted its base lock, stock and barrel to the BJP. Its entire support-base of around 47 per cent merged with the BJP; as a result the party, which had only 1.5 per cent vote, could sweep the elections bagging around 50 per cent votes. The secular support-base of the Congress accepted the BJP. Little doubt an understanding of the CPI-M with the Congress would have acted as a deterrent. But it did not happen. Undeniably the Tripura election results would impact “national politics”. The BJP would project the win as a verdict in its favour. But this is the not the truth. The Congress has voted against the Congress policies and rule of the Marxists. Ironically Karat choked the passage of ventilation of the grievances. It is worth recalling that the BJP had not won a single seat in the 2013 election to the State legislature.

Before the elections Yechury had called upon all the secular and democratic forces to unite on a concrete programme to conduct a united struggle and joint movements. But this could not acquire a definite character and shape. One can hope that the Marxist leadership will take lessons from this defeat. This is worse than the defeat of the party in West Bengal at the hands of Mamata Banerjee. In the 65-year-long electoral history of the country, the big brother of the Left, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), has never been in direct confrontation with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The election results also make it apparent that it has lost its charm amongst the tribals of the State. Till the last election they were firmly behind the CPI-M, though some tribal organisations had launched movements against the previous Left Front governments. But in this election for the first time the BJP upheld the cause of the tribals and also aligned with the tribal-based party, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) which has been agitating for a separate State comprising the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. Incidentally the BJP, like all other parties, had also rejected this. Little doubt that the BJP will have to do some tight-rope walking on this issue.

Transfer of votes of this nature is certainly abnormal and points to some major political crisis the State would face. The State is left with no checks-and-balances political mechanism. The anger of the Congress support-base and tribals might have been the ultimate reason for their voting for the BJP. But this is fraught with a latent threat perception. To expect that the BJP will sweep the region in the 2019 elections is simply a utopian postulate. If the party cannot manage its traditional States and strongholds, how can they aspire to perform a miracle?

The functioning of the CPI-M makes it abundantly clear that the Marxists are without a sense of direction, surviving on the laurels of past achievements. The Kerala brigade of the party, led by Karat, has in fact miserably failed to live upto its claim of redefining Marxism and ushering in a new Marxist era. It is really sad that during his tenure as the party General Secretary, the Marxists lost much of the ground and pursued the path of the social democrats. No one suggested to him not to criticise or launch campaign against the Congress, but he could have tried to analyse the resurgence of the BJP. A Marxist cannot maintain equidistance from the Congress and BJP in the present backdrop. The impact of the failure of this line is already being felt. Secular and democratic forces are in a state of panic and disarray.

The task of rejuvenating these forces has incidentally fallen upon the peasants, agricul-tural labourers and students. They have been demonstrating, organising rallies and meetings. While they have hit the streets, the established Left leaders and their parties are still busy discussing polemics: who is the greatest enemy? What is really surprising is that even during the four years of the saffron rule, the CPI-M had no answer to the BJP’s promise of development which continues to motivate the voters. At a time when the BJP‘s own allies are not satisfied with its claim of development and achievements and even a section of the economists are critical of its claims, the CPI-M leaders have failed to counter it in a decisive manner. The Left could not make the miseries of the farmers and peasants major political issues. The BJP suffered in the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh by-elections and scraped through to a narrow win in Gujarat. But these developments failed to compel the Marxists to act.

Marxist leaders claim that their party functions in a scientific manner. But this not a fact. Had their functioning been scientific, they ought to have understood that corruption and class contradiction were major issues in the 2014 elections. While Dr Manmohn Singh unwillingly or circumstantially represented the aspirations of the urban middle class and rich and feudal elements, Sonia Gandhi projected the Congress as the party of the poor and proletariat. This class differentiation was primarily responsible for the victory of the BJP. Ironically both the sections supported the BJP. The CPI-M could not counter the conspiracy of the saffron party vis-a-vis the Congress. The UPA was accused of direct looting of state assets, with many Ministers running individual fiefdoms. The former CAG, Vinod Rai, by closely working with the BJP Government, damaged the credibility of independent institutions. The Opposition still has too many skeletons in its cupboards. The bearers of the charges of corruption no longer carry much moral imprimatur themselves. Unfortunately the CPI-M leadership could not differentiate between the slogans of corruption and the ground realities.

After four years of BJP rule, it has become crystal-clear that even Modi could not avoid the stigma of being corrupt and a thief. His other Ministers are also found to have murky back-grounds. Demonetisation proved to be a false design to dent corruption. The Modi Government had managed to create a buzz that at the transactional level, ministerial corruption is zero. This does not necessarily mean that this government is any less plutocratic. All it means is that the plutocracy and corruption are managed more centrally and tightly.

The Modi Government is corrupt. This has been proved beyond doubt, but at the same time it is a matter of shame and concern that the Left has been found at fault in not taking the saffron by its horns and declaring an ideological war against it. Why the Marxists have failed to launch a protracted struggle against the BJP is really a mystery. While the Marxist leaders have been quite vocal against the UPA leaders found to be involved in corruption, they have been maintaining a passive stance against the BJP during the NDA rule.

A number of scams have taken place but they have refrained from coming out on the streets against the swindles. The institutions required to combat corruption—the CBI, CVC, prosecutor’s office, regulatory agencies and the judiciary—remain hit and miss bodies. It is an irony that even after four years it does not have too many instruments to check corruption. What is most unfortunate is that the person, the Prime Minister, who has vowed not to allow corruption to take place, is suspected to be deeply involved in corrupt practices.

Strange enough, the CPI-M appears to have lost its will to launch a struggle against the saffron politics and especially the rule of the Modi Government. Though the Marxists feel that the sort of atmosphere that is being witnessed does not augur well for parliamentary democracy, they have not hit the streets for mobilising the common people against the politics of the saffron brigade. They have been critical of lynching but have not raised their voice or staged any democratic protest. They have simply been issuing press statement. Under the Modi Government, there has been an intensification of the neo-liberal capitalist exploitation, the basic democratic and secular framework of the Constitution is being eroded for carrying out the Hindutva agenda and the saffron rule has brought India closer to the imperialist strategy of the United States. But the Marxists are least concerned of these develop-ments and have virtually abandoned their moral responsibility. They have miserably failed to draw a narrative that these developments mark the inception of an authoritarian-communal regime.

The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at sriv52[at]

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