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April 10, 2011




Page: 3/34

Home > 2011 Issues > April 10, 2011

The fall of Leftist power in India
By MV Kamath

BEFORE long four States in India will go to the polls for their respective legislatures, excitement is mounting over who will make it to the top. Of the four states, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal and Kerala, the latter two are presently ruled by Leftist governments. Stakes are huge for the Communists who are now apparently in dire state.

One hardly hears anything from their leaders and it is clear that they are suffering from depression. It should be remembered that West Bengal has been ruled by Leftists for the last 34 years and apparently a large segment of the West Bengal electorate has come to realise that the time has come to show the door to the Left Front. The Lok Sabha elections in 2009 were an eye-opener. The All India Trinamool Congress won 19 seats, the Left Front 15, the Indian National Congress a bare 6, the Bharatiya Janata Party just one and the unheard of Socialist Unity Centre of India also just one. Now the Leftists fear that this pattern may be repeated in the Legislative Assembly elections and no one will be surprised if Mamata Banerjee becomes the Stateís next Chief Minister.

For the last six months Mamata has been assiduously cultivating the electorate and the massive audiences that have come to hear her clearly show that popularity is swinging in her favour. The Leftists would like to have a hung Assembly if only for the party to save its face but the TMC-Congress combine - if such it can be called - is already behaving as if its victory at the polls is assured.

Mamata Banerjee, of course, would like to come to power on her own, which is only to be expected considering her ego. She certainly does not need Rahul Gandhiís presence, considering how much irrelevant it is as was shown in Bihar. According to reports she has been cultivating smaller parties like the Adivasi Mukti Morcha, the Gorkha Mukti Morcha and the Kamta Party. She obviously wants to take no chances. She would be the last to feel indebted to the Congress and has made it plain time and again in talks with Congress leaders, specifically Pranab Mukherjee. The Left Front has practically everything going against it. In the first place internal dissensions have been plaguing the party. Then there is the incumbency factor. Thirty four years is a long time to stay in power, besides which, the Leftists have little to show by way of economic progress. Added to that are memories of Singur and Nandigram that cannot be wiped away.

In all these past thirty four years the Left Front has ruled through sheer terrorism. As one writer has noted: "34 years have turned Bengalis in such a way that Bengalis as a whole have preferred to spend most of their time staying at home." If Congress and TMC really work hand-in-hand, their chances of coming to power are great. In the 2006 elections records show that the combine could have won more than 90 seats if only they had not split. The Leftists won because of discord between the Congress and the TMC. Hopefully both parties have learnt their lesson.

The Leftists have a problem: They may want to take advantage of corruption within the Congress-led UPA government in Delhi but their own hands are not that much clean either. Another tactic they are attempting to use is to name men in their thirties and early forties as candidates for election. Mohammed Salim, a Central Committee member is quoted as saying, "While the Opposition is depending on retired persons, people who had never been in politics in the prime of their life, our strategy is to bring young people who pack energy, attitude and style. Politics survives on the power of youth, just as in other sectors like banking, finance and IT." That is a desperate measure. But the general feeling is that Leftism as an ideological force has seen its day.

Of the 294 seats to the Assembly the Leftists are contesting in only 149. That by itself is an indication of the desperate state the Leftist Front is swimming in. Between Dada and Didi, it is more likely that Didi will come out as the victor.

In the case of Kerala, the situation is different. It has traditionally seen that the party in power is normally not re-elected. It has invariably been Congress versus Left, but the current belief is that the Congress-led United Democratic Front may be returned to power.

Sources in the central intelligence agency are quoted as saying that the Congress-led UDF has a good chance of winning around 85 out of the 140 seats, thus getting a comfortable majority. The CPM in Kerala is notoriously faction-ridden. The recent tussle on current Chief Minister VS Achuthanandanís candidature, though now resolved would not have helped the LDF. Nor the charges against Achuthanandanís son that he has connections with a lottery mafia. But then, it is claimed, there are internal dissensions among Congressmen, too, with AK Anthony publicly going on record as saying that fresh faces should be given preferences to time-tested old war-horses. One has also to take note of the caste and religion factor and the struggle between Nairs, Christians and Ezhavas.

But what, in the end, needs to be remembered is that communism as an ideology is now becoming increasingly irrelevant in India, whether it is in West Bengal or Kerala or, for that matter, in any other part of the country. What todayís youth demand is a well-paid job, high salary and what goes with them. Ideology is for the birds. In the process even corruption comes to be taken for granted. It is said, for example, that one Kerala Congress leader is in jail serving a one-year rigorous imprisonment in a case related to graft in the multi-crore hydo-project at Idamalayar. A Muslim-League leader is also in the dock with allegations of bribing the judiciary. For all that, against the current background in both West Bengal and Kerala in both of which states the BJP has hardly any stake, it seems it is the incumbent party that will face peoplesí wrath. Which is just as well.

Times are changing. Leftist theorising has lost its savour and the Prakash Karats and his ilk might well take to sanyas and give up politics altogether. Like the end of the British Empire over which, it was once said, the sun never set, the end of communism is on the cards and both West Bengal and Kerala might soon show it.




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