Congress and Left
At each other'sthroats
By Shyam Khosla
It is no surprise that the Congress and the communists, that are supporting the UPA from outside, are constantly at war with each other. There is hardly anything in common between the ruling alliance and the communists barring the insatiable hunger for power and to keep the BJP at bay by raising a false alarm about ?secularism in danger?. BJP is their common enemy as they have fundamental differences with the former on Indian nationhood and what constitutes the core of secularism and its application in social and political life of the country. They run down the saffron party as ?communal? but have no qualms of conscience in aligning with the All-India Muslim League that was responsible for the vivisection of the motherland and supporting rabidly communal Mufti Mohammed Sayed'soutfit in Jammu and Kashmir. Nor do they see any evil in parties that are secessionist or promote caste, regional and linguistic loyalties. Indulging in minorityism is their strategy to win elections.
Their mutual partisan interests obliged them to hammer out an arrangement in which the Left Front supports the government from outside. Its tantrums on every conceivable issue have only one explanation, i.e. they want to enjoy power without carrying the burden of the UPA'sconfused policies and their lack-lustre implementation. They bark and threaten to bite, but will never dare to bite because they can'tlet go of the golden opportunity offered by a hung Parliament to dictate policies in tune with their failed ideology. Enjoying power without responsibility is a tempting option.
What is pushing them towards an all-out confrontation is the ground reality that they will have to fight each other in West Bengal where Assembly elections are round the corner. The Congress share in the state'svote came down from 40 per cent in the first half of the 90s to a mere 8 per cent in 2004. TMC, that showed promise by capturing 24 per cent votes in 1998, came down to 21 per cent with only one seat in the last parliamentary polls. The Left'sapprehension is that having come to power at the Centre, the Congress may succeed in absorbing the TMC'svote bank in the Assembly polls or strike a deal with the mercurial Mamta Bannerjee by making a tempting offer. On its part, the Congress knows that it will have to target the Left if it has to revive the party in the state.
In most cases, the Left'scriticism of the UPA is rhetoric, simple and pure. They oppose foreign investment even while the Chief Minister of CPM-led West Bengal government goes round the globe with a begging bowl, canvassing for foreign investment. West Bengal is in dire need of investment as it has suffered economic stagnation during the 27-year Left rule. Their blind opposition to disinvestment is politically motivated. They think it serves to underline their commitment to their ideology even while they know that a large chunk of the public sector is eating into the vitals of our national economy and that there is no escape from disinvesting bankrupt PSUs. The Left'scriticism of the UPA is not limited to economic issues; it is now targeting the UPA on foreign policy issues. They took strong exception to Prime Minister'scongratulatory message to President Bush on his re-election. Have they lost all sense of proportion? Did they want the Prime Minister to tell the American President that we are sorry John Kerry lost? Or should we fly our flags at half-mast to mourn the defeat of a person whose heart bled for the terrorists? In a bid to emerge as the champion of Palestine cause, it has lambasted the government for not doing enough to upset the warm relations India had built with Israel during NDA rule. It deplored the government for its silence over Israeli ?hegemony? in West Asia. Acting under communist pressure, the government decided that no Indian citizen would be allowed to take up jobs in the ?war zone?. It amounted to allowing the country to be blackmailed by hostage-takers that had taken three Indian truck drivers as hostages. Neither the Congress nor the Left could care less for it sent the right signals to their Muslim vote bank.
The Congress-led government bent backward to keep the Left in good humour but now their patience is running out. The decision to dissolve all consultative committees of the Planning Commission was a curt response to the Left'sdemand that experts representing foreign agencies be removed from these committees. The communists may pat their back for preventing ?foreigners? from sitting on these committees but the fact remains that their own men on these committees have lost the opportunity to influence Planning Commission. Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia is unlikely to consider it necessary to consult Marxists in the mid-term appraisal of the Planning Commission'swork.
Yet another sign of the Congress party'sdecision to hit back at the communists is the decision to engage the CPM on several sensitive issues. One of the most uncomfortable issues the Congress is raising is the killing of more than 11,000 political workers?belonging to all non-CPM parties, including Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party?during the uninterrupted Marxist rule for the 27 years. The Congress has let it be known that it would also target the Left Front with issues like bungling of massive Panchayat funds, land reforms, poor health of agriculture and the worsening law and order. Both of them are now at each other'sthroats. How will this fight affect the durability of the UPA, only time will tell.