If the Congress is stunned by its rout in Delhi and the BJP grumpily wonders who and what this Johnny-come-lately party is about, the Left leaders seem torn between wary caution and outspoken enthusiasm. Those from the latter school of thought celebrate the fact that the AAP has managed to stop the BJP in its tracks in the capital. But there are others who believe that the AAP should be kept at arm’s length and not only because it is not yet clear whether the AAP has the staying power that is requisite for a long life in politics.
Still, the fact is that the AAP has managed to upstage both the Congress and the Left, whose traditional voting bastions have variously been the poor and the unprivileged — India’s toiling masses.
The question, however, is why the Left has not been able to expand its presence both in urban India and rural Bharat, save for Tripura, Kerala and West Bengal. In a country like India, which is always ripe for picking because of the several problems that besiege it constantly, the Left should always have been in the forefront, articulating both unhappiness and dissent about economic and social policies and forging an alternative that promised to wipe tears from every eye.
Unfortunately, the Communist Party of India, a prominent left-wing party, refused to allow its senior leader, Jyoti Basu, to become prime minister in 1987, and again in 2008, withdrew from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government over the Indo-US nuclear deal. But the truth is that the reason UPA-2 has found itself anchorless and rudderless and unable to check rampant corruption is because the staying hand of the Left was missing.
Over the decades, Left leaders have understood that it is not only important, but essential to fashion party politics in an understanding of India that cannot be limited by parameters of class, caste and prejudice.
If the AAP had gone by the Left argument — which suggested that the party did not have a base in Delhi, it would never have dared to form a political party only a year ago and contest elections. The truth is that the AAP dared to dream big.
Now that it has won, the AAP has decided not to ally with any other political party. Not with the left-of-centre Congress because it is allegedly corrupt, not with the BJP because it is communal and not with the Left either, because it is supposedly steeped in outdated ideology. Some AAP leaders understand well the dangers of an urban party’s ‘anti-political’ stand that largely believes in the ‘sab politicians chor hain’ (all politicians are corrupt) school of thought.
For the Left, as general elections approach, the time has come for it to reach out to like-minded parties such as the Congress as it did in 2004. To argue that the Congress Party’s economic policies have destroyed India in the last decade should not mean that the Left cannot find like-minded people inside the Congress who have the courage to change those policies and rediscover the face of the aam aadmi in whose name India should be ruled.
The Left is far too important to be politically marginalised even further. It speaks up for egalitarian justice and more equal rights for all. It must fulfil its own destiny by reaching out and stabilising political formations that have been temporarily blinded by the razzle-dazzle of economic and political extremism. By restoring the idea of India to itself, the Left will be finally ready to take on the divisive challenges that people like Narendra Modi embody. The time is here and now.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2014.
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@regards the basis of Kerala model is to export cheap labor to gulf countries. There is not much left is able to achieve in West Bengal either. I really don't see they have anything to offer. If resources are limited more resources need to be generated, you cannot just focus on distributing the existing resources without adding anything.
ET Moderators -(3rd attempt) . Everything stated is factual, relates to the OpEd and complies with your guidelines. Why do you continue to filter?
@Author What makes you believe that Jyoti Basu becoming PM of an unstable coaliation with outside support from Congress would have helped CPIM any more than ascent of Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar, I.K. Gujral and Deve Gowda helped their respective parties? You can only say that leaving UPA in 2008 was bad for CPIM if you can prove that being part of IPA 1 from 2004-2008 did anything good for CPIM. Can you?
@regard: Resources in West Bengal were not limited when CPIM took charge. In fact at that time. WB had higher per capita income than all 3 states you list i.e. Punjab, Gujarat and Karnataka - having been the capital of British empire until 1913 and having a very large industrial base. It is the policies of the CPIM that deindustrialised WB and did not allow Kerala industrialisation for e.g. policies related to head load workers. Unlike Punjab, Gujarat and Karnataka that provide emloyment not only to residents of their own states but also people from across India - WB and Kerala is forced to send its residents out. The fewer resources are a deliberate outcome of their economic strategy rather than fait accompli. Initial land reforms in WB earned them goodwill but in the end the deindustrialisation of WB hurt them.
The high HDI of Kerala predates independence and is not due to CPIM's policies but rather people like Maharaja of Travancore. WB HDI are not better than the states you cited.
Communism did not survive in erstwhile USSR or eastern Europe because they figured out that you have to grow a pie before you can distribute it. In China the community party lives but communism does not. China's remarkable growth story started only after Deng Xiao Ping jettisoned Mao's economic policies.
Your assumption that communism did not survive in India due to backwardness shows that you have very little understanding of ground realities and the long term adverse impact of CPIM's uninterrupted 3 decades rule on WB.
An excellent commentary of left politics in India; but then it is worth listening to @regard when he says, "...that when resources are limited, capitalism is not the best answer if we're looking for the uplift of most and not increase in GDP only."
Left is important not only in India but also in every industrial society. It sets up moral standards and still a refuge for those who wish a more balanced society. Jyoti is right in emphasizing this precisely. If it was not a proper fit for India and in every aspect for a conservative society, ridden by religious and sectarian scum like India, it al lest improved the lot of many. This is how Bengal and Kerala leave rest of India, especially richer states like Gujrat, Punjab, Karnatak way behind. It shows that when resources are limited, capitalism is not the best answer if we're looking for the uplift of most and not the increase in GDP only.
Thank you Jyoti for an excellent article.
Political murders and the herding together of industrial workers under its union without the right to dissent are hallmarks of the communist party in India. Kerala and West Bengal have seen more political murders than any other state in India and very few private companies ventured to start industries in the two states, at least till recently.
The left parties in India failed in the rural India too because it failed to follow the ideology it was propagating. the leaders at the local level ( whose actions are visible to the masses) are equally corrupt, thieves, non credible and used violent methods to keep control and in the process lost totally. Their impression and propaganda that all rich and industrialists are exploiters and their extreme stand just to oppose them without understanding the consequences caused the death of industries and or flee of capital and entrepreneurs to other states like Gujarat which are friendly and the economic environment is conducive for business/ industrial activities. AAP won because they were able to gain credibility with their actions to go against corruption, better governance and pro poor but will certainly loose if they go for Lok Sabha election countrywide without a mechanism to filter out the dirt which will try to enter its fold and destroy its credibility and reputation of non corrupt/ honest and dedicated for fair governance.
@Anjaan: It is one of the ironies of the subcontinent that Communists and Islamists go well together.
Jyoti Ji, You see the reaction from readers above, so I better not say anything. Once a while I think if Karl Marx would have been born somewhere in the seventh century, he might have been taken as one of the prophets, may or may not be the last one. Alas! that did not happen. I have lot of respect for gentleman's scholarly contribution though disagree with the route taken by several socialist societies including former Soviet Union and China. I agree with the readers that state controlled economies do not function quite well except making already powerful bureaucrats more powerful and ultimately corrupt. Human dignity is more important than anything else and must be availed at all costs. This is, perhaps, what Aam Adami Party stands for. Again, I could be wrong.
Apart from agrarian reforms, the CPI(M) under Jyoti Basu destroyed the industry in West Bengal. Due the the trade unions like CITU, which always called for strikes and hartals, the industry fled. With the work culture destroyed, WB is still suffering and will likely to suffer for quite some time in the future. All what is has are unemployed youth who for their intellectual masturbation, read Marx.