Comrades, what’s the plan? Analysing CPI (M)’s decision to dump the Congress

How does the CPI (M) plan to fight its prime enemy – the BJP – without a tactical alliance with the Congress?
Comrades, what’s the plan? Analysing CPI (M)’s decision to dump the Congress
Comrades, what’s the plan? Analysing CPI (M)’s decision to dump the Congress
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The strongest of the Left parties in India, it seems, is going through yet another tough phase in its history. On Sunday, the party, by majority vote, ruled out any understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress. This vote was held at the CPI (M)’s apex council – the Central Committee – and the decision raises a complicated question: How does the party intend to fight the BJP, its prime enemy? What is the game plan?

On Sunday, 31 people voted in favour of General Secretary Sitaram Yechury’s proposal to have a political understanding or electoral alliance with ‘secular parties’. However, 57 people voted against it, defeating the proposal moved by Yechury, and voting in favour of the proposal moved by ex General Secretary Prakash Karat. It was decided that any pact or alliance with the Congress will weaken the party in Kerala – the stronghold of the CPI (M), where it leads the ruling coalition with a clear majority.

Strengthening Congress at the cost of CPI (M)?

A source in the party told TNM, “The evaluation is that any understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress won’t help the party in Tripura and Kerala, where the Congress is the prime opposition of the CPI (M). In Kerala, which has the strongest unit of the party, any pact with the Congress may give the people the feeling that there is no difference between voting for the Congress and the CPI (M). The Congress is not very strong in the state right now, and any pact with them will lead to the strengthening of the Congress at the cost of the CPI (M).”

The counter argument of those who are disappointed by the Central Committee’s decision is that the Left Democratic Front, headed by the CPI (M), won 18 out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala in 2004, then decided to back UPA I, and after that, they still managed to win big in the Assembly elections that followed. In the Assembly polls in 2006, the LDF won 99 out of the 140 seats.

Even if it can be argued that the ‘VS factor’ – the influence of senior CPI (M) leader VS Achuthanandan – was decisive to LDF’s victory, detractors to Sunday’s vote feel that that is not reason enough to believe that the backing of the Congress at the Centre did any damage to the party in the state.

Leadership not in tune with rank and file?

The majority in the CPI (M) leadership also believes that the Congress has been unable to stem the growth of the BJP even after ruling the country for decades. They believe that the Congress’s ‘soft stand’ towards the BJP’s Hindutva politics couldn’t check the saffron party’s strengthening of its roots.

However, many in the rank and file of the party believe that this – the CPI (M)’s decision – is politics of principle, but not practical politics in the changed political scenario in the country.

“BJP is ten times mightier than it was in 2004,” a source said. “And it is not possible for the CPI (M) to fight the BJP alone in the whole country, without the support of a party like the Congress, which has roots in all states.”

“Those who are arguing for a pact with the Congress have also brought to notice the fact that, unlike in the past when the party workers used to be happy about the Congress’s poll debacles, things have changed now. They are now content with the challenge the Congress posed to the BJP in the Gujarat Assembly elections, although they couldn’t win,” the source added.

“While in his document Karat specifies Congress, Yechury doesn’t name Congress. While Yechury doesn’t close the door to go hand in hand with the Congress after elections, Karat completely closes it and it’s a disappointment that Karat won,” a political critic in the state said.

“The question for Karat and his line of thinkers now is: how will they fight the BJP in the country? They have to address the concerns of the party rank and file, and those who owe affinity to the party,” he added.  

This round goes to Pinarayi

The vote on Sunday was also a win for the former General Secretary Prakash Karat’s document over that of Yechury, and this, political observers say, should be viewed as the victory of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over his rival in the party, VS Achuthanandan.

Yechury had backed Achuthanandan in all his moves against Pinarayi Vijayan. Vijayan had to fight back, and wait to assume the chair of the Chief Minister of the state for years, after making sure that VS lost his clout in the party. Yechury’s weakened position in the party underlines the dominance of Pinarayi Vijayan, whose politics is in tandem with Karat in the Kerala unit of the party.

While there is no difference of opinion in the party about who is the prime political enemy, Karat and those who support him are yet to clarify on how they plan to fight the BJP.

What is the big plan?

The decision not to have any understanding has kicked off a heated debate among the political circles in the state, with many asking what exactly the CPI (M)’s game plan is.

There are only three other political parties in the country which haven’t had any kind of alliance with the right wing political outfit: the Congress, the Samajwadi Party (SP), and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). As the CPI (M) leadership through their vote have decided against any tie-up with the Congress, what remains are the SP and the RJD.

The SP is in its weakest position ever in its history, and its chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, a master of coalition politics himself, is struggling to retain his position within his own party. RJD’s chief Lalu Prasad, meanwhile, has been imprisoned in the fodder scam.

Poet and Left-line thinker poet Sachithandan satirically said in a Facebook post, “We will fight them with sticks and knives; not with politics and tactics,”.

Kerala Council of Churches president Geevarghese Mar Coorilos in a Facebook post said that this is the second historical blunder done by the CPI (M) after the decision to not make Jyoti Basu Prime Minister.

“In what age does the CPI (M) live? At a time when all the political forces should unite against fascist forces, this decision will come as a great solace for the communal forces, and a disappointment for the secular forces. They should have united with the Congress at the national level while retaining their differences of opinion in the state. I am with Yechury in this case. After all, there is politics even in standing with those who fail,” Geevarghese’s post reads.

Senior Congress leader AK Antony flayed the Kerala leadership for the decision. “History will never forgive them, nor will the people of Kerala,” Antony said.

However, Damodar Prasad, a political observer, asked, “Does the responsibility to build up secular forces lie solely with the CPI (M)? Any party will give up larger interests when they fear for their existence. For example, in the Delhi Assembly, the Congress has the same attitude towards the AAP as the BJP. They have agreed with the disqualifying of MLAs of the AAP. Will they support the AAP if a bye-election is held?”

But for those who are against the decision by the CPI (M) leadership on Sunday, there is still some hope. Since CPI (M)’s organisational elections have been taking place at every level in all states, by the time the Party Congress is held in Hyderabad in April, perhaps the new members of the committee will speak in favour of an alliance with the Congress.

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