The 23rd party congress of the CPI, now underway in Kollam, began by welcoming the CPI(M)’s stand to have an understanding with the Congress party to oust the BJP government at the Centre. Unlike the heated debates at the CPI(M) party Congress that recently concluded in Hyderabad, which even had the potential to split the party, the CPI has no second thoughts on coordinating with Congress for the larger mission against BJP.
However, even as much of the Left’s leadership backs the Congress, many in Kerala don’t think it is in their best interests, and that the understanding will remain deadpan posturing.
CPI’s General Secretary Sudhakar Reddy said in Kollam that the CPI(M)’s tactical line would help strengthen the unity between the two Communist parties. “I would like to assure the CPI, CPI(M) and other Left parties, that this will certainly strengthen Left unity further to defeat BJP,” Reddy said.
“The CPI is more realistic on the Indian situation, but the CPI(M) is still led by blind opposition to the Congress. EMS Namboodiripad used to say that the hegemony of Congress rule should end, and some party leaders still think on those lines. But the situation has changed now. The communal forces led by the BJP can be eliminated only if the Congress emerges as the single largest party, which is possible with a wider alliance of non-communal political parties,” a CPI insider told TNM.
Sitaram Yechury, recently elected as the party General Secretary for a second term, also proposed a similar alliance as the ‘alternate resolution’ at the CPI party Congress. Yechury said that while the main task was to defeat the BJP and its allies by aligning with all secular and democratic forces, the nature of an understanding with the Congress will be decided after the Lok Sabha elections.
The consensus reached between Yechury and former General Secretary Prakash Karat, who vehemently opposes any tie-up with the Congress, was that while an understanding can be arrived at, there will be no political alliance with the Congress party.
Kerala’s unhappy Left
A political observer in the state says that Karat is more realistic and that his line is the practical one.
“What kind of impact will the Left parties’ support to the Congress make at the national level? Right now, Left is strong only in Kerala. Extending any support to the Congress may weaken the party’s fight against the Congress in the state. If the party has to remain strong in Kerala, a consistent battle with the Congress is needed, which won’t be possible if any kind of understanding is reached between the rival political forces,” he says.
This will also benefit the BJP, he says, “BJP would use it as a political weapon against both the ruling and the opposing fronts. And as for Kerala, there is no need of any pact as BJP is not that big a force which needs a collective unity to be defeated,” he said.
Even CPI(M) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is not happy with the ‘understanding’. He stated on Friday that the party will accept support from anyone to oppose Congress in the Chengannur bye-election to be held on May 28. By ‘anyone’, Kodiyeri meant Kerala Congress (M) led by KM Mani, who parted ways with the Congress-led UDF in 2016.
However, some say that the rank and file of the party in Kerala will understand the need to team up with the Congress.
“It is true that the Congress is the prime opponent of the Left parties in Kerala. But the credibility of the Left is at stake. Even those who are not Leftists have faith in Left parties that they would fight against fascist and communal forces. If the Left parties are not a part of the front then why should Christians, Muslims or sections of the Hindus who don’t support the BJP, vote for them?” a source asks.
The Kerala unit of the Congress however took a non-committal approach with Ramesh Chennithala stating that the party won’t seek support from anyone, but won’t reject any offers.