Why the Left is still important to India

Left leaders understand it is not only important, but essential to fashion party politics in an understanding of India

Jyoti Malhotra January 09, 2014
The writer is a consultant based in New Delhi, where she writes for Business Standard and blogs for The Times of India

The rise and rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in New Delhi has been the subject of much comment and admiration in recent days, including among the mainstream Left parties which have been in the forefront of trying to stitch up an anti-Congress and anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance before or after the general elections to combat the twin evils of corruption and communalism.

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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Regard | 9 years ago | Reply I’m sure you’ll concur that contrary to US, Europa, Africa and most other developed countries, India has limited capital resources. If India wishes to catch up, we’ll never have enough before we start distributing the pie as you suggest. The only and surefire way is to develop human resources, just as Japan and N. European countries have done before us. Productivity per individual will bring in over all wealth and of course of GDP. I’ll not unfold graphs and reports here on the Human Development Indices published by UNDP and other agencies which clearly show that WB had been done better than average on most of the indicators of social progress.I'm also not in ideological debate on communism in general but only India specific. I agree it could have been still better if industrial strength could have been built up too. But a capitalist economy, goods and services are commodities for immediate return. They are for sale, to make immediate profit disregarding long term usefulness of an investment, its economic value or profitability. Agriculture is not about producing food but about profit. Food is a side effect while the bulk of the world’s food is produced as commodities by a small fraction of farm operators. Health service is a commodity, health a by-product. Will it support large populations like we have. It will rather generate more street crime and social unrest like it was in Brazil. Investment in human capital takes at least one generation in maturing but then it is like holding shares in a firm for decades. Its value can only goes up as the principal will always be there. One simple comparative example is among 2 western countries. In sixties, Sweden followed a high tax regime to support its social programs, UK followed, on the contrary, an industry friendly but low social import programs. Both had comparable economies. Please compare the GDP of both countries, Still almost same, Sweden has not collapsed and is 7th on HDI scale while UK is at 26th in 50 years. Ask a common European where he feels more comfortable? Growth is about people like you and me and not a GDP skewed by some high worth individuals.
Anjaan | 9 years ago | Reply @ regard, you are talking nonsense ... Japan has little or no resources, yet it is a global giant ... Communism tramples individual freedom ... and Indian version of Communism is organized cadre based terror and violence ...
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