Left in the Lurch or is it only the Leftover now?

Written by: Pathikrit

CPM Rally
One of the most striking aspects of the countdown to the National Election 2014 is the sheer absence of the Left Parties in the mainstream discussions. While the discussions for long have been around who is the best Prime Ministerial candidate as also on several national issues like price rise, corruption, terrorism, governance as well as the impact of social media in the upcoming general elections, they have also hovered around the impact of emergence of new parties, on the role many of the regional parties would play in the post election scenario as well as what ideally should be the charter for the new government to rescue India from the present economic chaos and policy paralysis.

Yet, the most surprising aspect of all of it is that no one is even talking about where the Left Parties stand today and what role they would play. Social media trends, which give a basic idea of what people are discussing and how things are shaping up, rarely have any discussion about Left as an alternative. Incidentally this is in spite of the fact that CPI(M) and CPI still are two of the six recognised national parties of India.

In the recently concluded assembly elections, in case of Rajasthan where in 2008, CPI(M) had won three seats, this time it could not even open account. In Delhi, where it has a certain proportion of the vote share, most of its candidates failed miserably.

So what went wrong for the Left Front parties and particularly CPI(M) and CPI? What is the reason for the massive fall of those who 7-8 years back were a key supporter of the UPA and its representatives were ubiquitously always present in television news channels? Has the Left parties become synonymous with opposition to everything and tacit support for Congress? Has the Left got it all wrong in terms of reading the mood of the aspiring youth of the nation? Has it lost its entire appeal of socialism which has become more synonymous with other national parties? Has it failed to realise the near irrelevance of communism in India's context?

Barring its extremely marginal presence in several states of India, even a few years back Bengal, Kerala and Tripura were Left Front's unchallenged bastions. Today all they have is Tripura to hold on to where they won in 2013 while in 2011, almost 34 years of Left rule came to a decisive end in Bengal when they were routed by Trinamool Congress. In Kerala too, the Left lost it to Congress led UDF.

The downfall of the Left Parties in India can only be blamed upon their own dogmatic insistence of not seeing the writing on the wall. Over the last two decades, there has been phenomenal metamorphosis of India happening especially with the unshackling of the economic restrictions, the rise of Indian private sector as well as the aspirations of young India striving to break impediments, unleash their creativity and taking plunge into the realm of entrepreneurship by discarding the concerns of job security.

Young India was no more willing to live in a cocoon and accepting all that was parroted to him. He was no more scared or willing to be brainwashed with ideas which have lost their relevance today. For him liberal thoughts and global harmony are important but not more important than nationalism. The revolution ushered in by internet gave him a new vista of opportunity to learn, engage and disseminate.

For the youth of today, it is the entrepreneurs, who defied odds to create world class Indian companies, are bigger idols than some ubiquitous Marxist-Leninist leaders of the past. For the youth of today, a Bhagat Singh or a cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar has more appeal as icons than a distant Mao Zedong. For the youth of today, they can relate to the ideas of Swami Vivekanand or APJ Kalam more than that of a Fidel Castro or a Stalin. Today's youth of India find the idea of hating US and Capitalism just for the heck of it extremely ridiculous and bizzare even while communism has literally failed to provide any better alternative.

China realised the need to change long time back having witnessed the collapse of Soviet Union. It gradually enmeshed its communist ideologies to Chinese nationalism, did away with most of the restrictions on private enterprises and capital investments and trashed every idea that was an impediment to the growth of China. Left Parties of India failed almost in each of these and suddenly found themselves reduced to a nothing more than a bit player in the Indian political paradigm.

Yet when sudeenly the Left Front in Bengal started to realise the folly of another ‘Historical Mistake' of missing the economic revolution bus, they started land acquisition and industrialisation of Bengal at such a pace that the people who were fed with the very opposite view about industrialisation, by the same very Left, was not willing to accept what the Left Front Government was trying to do. Perhaps the Left Front forgot that unlike in China, here in India they would have to get elected every five years. The incidents of Nandigram and Singur created a void and opposition parties like TMC started filling it with the same anti-industrialisation war cry as what the Left had done for decades. Their quest for a rollercoaster ride, instead of a calibrated one, with industrialisation eventually resulted in their complete decimation in Bengal.

Indian Left parties are essentially a confused lot today. Their talk of class fight has lost much of its steam since Indians from the lower middle class and even economically backward classes have essentially benefitted from economic liberalisation and almost all aspire to become more affluent than what they are now. Poverty is no more a glorious thing to take pride in. The Left's aversion to cultural nationalism or spirituality be it (Vedic Sprituality or Sufism) too has lost most of its appeal as India's rich cultural traditions have thrived and survived and today has more appeal even globally than ever before. On the contrary the Left parties have essentially failed to justify their affinity towards caste based political parties in spite of their rhetoric for a caste free society just as they essentially failed to justify their stand of supporting Congress in UPA-1 and then suddenly withdrawing the same for the reason of Indo-US Nuclear Deal and what good their withdrawal of support did to India.

It is important for the Left parties to redefine as to what they essentially stand for. Harping on the glorious days of Soviet Union and Cuba would not help anymore. Needless aversion and preaching of anti-US sentiments would create more revulsion than help them resurrect. It is critical for them to accept the resurgence of Indian cultural nationalism, secular patriotism and the indispensability of economic growth for betterment of India.

Most other political parties have been quick to see the changes and at least to a certain extent repositioned their standing. Left Parties would also do well to realise that merely taking an anti-BJP stand does no more help them define their existence. In all these years both BJP and many of the regional parties from TMC to the new born AAP have eaten away most of the vote bank of Left Parties even as the Left leaders grappled to define their positions on several key issues plaguing India starting from terrorism to economic issues.

No doubt, the Indian parliament still have some outstanding parliamentarians from the Left Parties who played a key role along with the main opposition parties to sensitise the issue of major scams like 2G, CWG or Coal Scam and force investigation on the same. But Left Party as a whole would do good to undergo a metamorphosis and shed many if its inhibitions. Or else, the writing on the wall is clear and pertinent.

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