Politburo member M A Baby told TNM that the CPI(M) would join hands with progressive and secular forces in order to fight communalism.

CPIMs Tripura defeat Where does the Left go from herePTI
news Politics Sunday, March 11, 2018 - 13:02

After the Bharatiya Janata Party’s thumping victory in Tripura, the CPI(M), who was in power in the state for 25 years, is now introspecting on the reasons for their defeat, and what it must do from here on. 

In the recent elections, the BJP-led alliance won 43 of Tripura’s 60 seats. The BJP, which launched a shrill campaign to seek poriborton (change), got 35 seats and a 43% vote share. The BJP had not won even a single seat in 2013.

The CPI(M)’s vote share was just a fraction less than that of the BJP at 42.3%. However, the Left won only 16 seats – down by 35 seats – and ended up losing power.

Speaking to TNM after the party’s setback in the Tripura elections, M A Baby, the politburo member of the CPI(M) said that it is time to identify the reasons and take steps to rectify them.

“We will work to gain the trust of the sections we have lost. We will join hands with progressive, secular and democratic forces, in campaigns to fight communalism and the ills of market-driven neo-liberal economic policies. But there are difficulties in making an electoral arrangement with the Indian National Congress,” Baby told TNM.

Baby argues that the Congress failed in opposing and fighting communalism.

“The Congress also has a soft-Hindutva policy, which is not helping in fighting communalism. It has failed in exposing and fighting communalism. The Congress follows neo-liberal economic policies at present, just like the BJP does, which affect the common man. So, it is difficult to have an electoral arrangement with them,” he added.

“Today’s Congress party member and leader can be seen as tomorrow’s members and leaders of the BJP,” he said.

“We agree that we had lost votes in Tripura. But we would not have lost power if the Congress vote share had not come down to 1.8% in this poll from the 36.5% in 2013,” Baby said.

The CPI(M)-led Left Front had been power in West Bengal continuously for 34 years (till 2011) and 25 years continuously in Tripura, till it lost it the elections. Now, the CPI(M) is only in power in Kerala. 

S Ramachandran Pillai, another politburo member and president of the All India Kisan Sabha (peasants’ movement) since 1999, told TNM that the Tripura poll debacle said that there must be mistakes.

“However, ups and downs on the parliamentary front are natural for a political party. We will rectify our mistakes and certainly bounce back,” he said.

“The CPI(M) is a party which works at the parliamentary level and also mobilizes people for a better social cause and change. The loss on the parliamentary front will not hamper our activities on the social front. We will focus more on that and move ahead,” Ramachandran added.

After its defeat, the CPI(M), in a statement, attacked the BJP and said that they used a ‘massive deployment of money’ to influence the elections. 

“The BJP was able to consolidate all the anti-Left votes, virtually appropriating the erstwhile main opposition party, the Congress. Our party will carefully examine the reasons for this electoral setback and take necessary remedial measures,” said Pillai. He assured the people of Tripura that it will continue to champion the cause of all sections of the working people and uphold tribal and non-tribal unity.

With the BJP bringing down the Left in Tripura and ‘clinching’ a deal to be a part of the ruling alliance in Meghalaya, the party is now either a leader or a partner in 21 of India’s 31 state governments. In 2014, when the Narendra Modi government came to power, the BJP was ruling only seven states and the Congress, the main opposition party, was in power in 13 states. The Congress is now down to four — Punjab, Karnataka, Mizoram, and Pondicherry.

PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have reportedly picked Karnataka as their next target, where Congress is currently in power. Modi has asserted that the opposition party will not be in power following the Assembly elections, which will take place in April-May this year.

NM Pearson, a political analyst and a columnist in Kerala, told TNM that the Communist parties in India, especially, the CPI(M), have to realize the fact that they are losing their ground and need to identify their targets.

“There is a need for Communist parties in India. It’s only they who have the secular formats and the alternatives required to fight neo-liberal market-driven policies. So, their existence is a must in India at a time when fascist forces are making gains,” Pearson said.

The analyst added that, however, there are no shortcuts for their survival.

“The party has to go back to the ground level. It should understand why Dalits and marginalized people are deserting the party. It should work hard to gain their confidence. An electoral alignment is not going to help in the long run,” Pearson added.

When asked whether CPI(M) will survive in Kerala, he said that it will.

“The party leadership in Kerala has adopted and embraced market-driven policies. The party in Kerala has also been successful in maintaining the balance between neo-liberal policies and issues faced by the common man. Additionally, the government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been able to implement decisions taken by the government,” Pearson said, adding that resources like non-resident remittances place the state in a better position on the economic front.

In the recent state party meeting, the CPI(M) has adopted several measures to gain the trust of the common man such as organizing state government exam coaching for aspirants, cleaning ponds and distributing food for the needy at hospitals.

Senior business journalist Joe A Scaria said that for the Left to remain relevant, it must become more pragmatic. It cannot continue to assume that its cadres would hold fast to an ideology that was passed down from the last century.

“The broad backing that the Left unions had, for instance, when they opposed tractors or computers was not available when taxi unions feebly attempted to block Uber from making an entry.”

“A whole new generation cannot be sold an ideology that opposes tech advancements anymore. Nor will they fail to see the gap between preaching and practice, when they see Left leaders preach about helping the poor while soaking themselves in luxury,” he said.

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