The Communist Party of India (CPI) is showing increasing discomfort in the strategic acrobatics of its more prominent younger version Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM). It is difficult to fathom as to what is pricking them. Ideological puritanism, political opportunism, genuine dissent or a calculated reassertion of a separate identity. After all, the CPI is a burnt-out case. It was eager to merge with the CPM. But the younger one did not show any interest. Ever since the catharsis has begun.
The latest in a series of CPI disdain with the CPM in recent months is the party national executive decision to reject the CPM call to unite the so-called secular forces in Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. At the end of the two-day national executive meeting in the capital, the CPI has made it clear that there are issues other than secularism that needed to be given priority in UP. ?Mulayam Singh government is more and more working in the interests of big businesses and sacrificing the interests of farmers and common people? a resolution of the CPI said. ?As far as Congress is concerned it should first take a decision and we can think about it? party general secretary A.B. Bardhan said. The CPI has obviously kept its options open for a tie-up with the Congress which has given a call to end Mulayam rule in the state.
The CPI grand standing has not impressed the big brother. The CPI(M) has refused to react to CPI'sindependent thinking, as UP is not the only place where the older, original Communist party has taken that line.
In West Bengal along with other members of the Left Front the CPI is fighting the pro-capitalist policies of the CPM, especially the special economic zone (SEZ) like initiatives the Chief Minister has signed with foreign and home-grown bourgeoisie. Bardhan says that in Andhra Pradesh his party will keep away from Telugu Desam Party, which is actively exerting to form a Third Front under the Left. The CPM has been cosy with the TDP and contested the recent panchayat election in the state against the Congress in the company of N. Chandrababu Naidu. But the CPI stood firmly behind the Congress. Equally vehement is the CPI opposition to former Kerala chief minister K. Karunakaran'sattempt to merge his party with Sharad Pawar'sNCP, though the CPM is silent on it. The CPI says it will not allow Karunakaran to become part of the ruling alliance in Kerala, even if he merges with the NCP, which is sharing power in the Left Front government. Before the assembly election in Kerala, it was the CPI'spersistent opposition to Karunakaran'sentry into LDF, though the Pinarayi Vijayan faction in the CPM was too willing, that forced Karunakaran to go back on bended knees before the Congress high command to contest the poll with the UDF.
The CPI'snew stand on Mulayam Singh is similar to the one it adopted in Bihar against Lalu Prasad Yadav in March though the CPM was rooting for the RJD leader. Here, the CPI contested the poll along with Ramvilas Paswan and the Congress and helped divide the non-NDA vote. The CPI has taken a similar position in Punjab also, which is going to polls along with UP early next year.
The Communist parties are not very significant forces in either state, but in UP it is the CPI which has few pockets of influence. What is consistent in the CPI approach is that it is closer to the Congress in all these states though in Kerala and West Bengal it is sharing power with the CPM. The Marxist party is clearly fashioning its economic policy on the lines of the Chinese Communists, which in other words is pro-capitalist and elitist, which is bothering the smaller partners in the Left Front. The CPI, both ideologically and organisationally, is in a time warp, it seems nostalgic of its close liaisons with the Congress in the seventies. The CPM is hopeful of a steller role. It is becoming increasingly corrupt, pragmatic and image conscious. A section in the CPI reportedly tired of the big brother attitude of the CPM wants to revive the old arrangement with Congress. That is why any attempt at damaging the Sonia Congress is earnestly resisted by the CPI. The big brother on the other hand is using the present UPA experiment to enlarge its reach and acceptability for a bigger role it envisages for itself. The CPM is aware of the falling political graph of the Congress and it is sanguine about the prospects of a Third Front, replacing the typically unnatural UPA interregnum. In this the CPM has not bothered to take the weaker cousins into confidence. And this explains the frustration witnessed in the CPI executive. Equally interesting is the Forward Bloc stand on Vande Mataram, Netaji inquiry commission and even Haj subsidy. The Forward Bloc approach sounded so dissimilar to that of the CPM, as if the former was in the opposition in West Bengal. In short, Left Front in its present format is fast becoming a farce, a state-level replica of the UPA.