The worst thing that can happen to a political party is when it begins to look trivial. The miserable decline of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh is a recent example. By and large India’s political parties have avoided such a catastrophe. And that explains the angst today in the minds of the supporters and fellow- travellers of the Left movement in India.
The fact of the matter is that the Communist Party of India-Marxist is the leading formation in the Left movement and when it tends to look increasingly trivial, it not only presents a sad spectacle but discredits the Left itself. The Left has always had a larger-than-life influence in Indian politics, which is only natural in a country with so much injustice, poverty and exploitation and life (or sheer survival) is a constant struggle for the big majority of people who have no hope on earth left. Therefore, the CPM bears an additional burden of responsi-bility insofar as it is more than a political party; it is also the voice of the dispossessed and exploited poor who have been left behind.
When the CPM makes bourgeois politics— electoral alliances, seat adjustments, et al.—the centre-piece of its orientations and activities, it is letting down the progressive forces badly at a crucial juncture in the country’s politics and history. If the newspapers are correct, the Polit-Bureau of the CPM—comprising a dozen or so wise men—are huddled together in a two-day conclave in New Delhi to make a momentous decision as to
• Whether the CPM should form an alliance with the Congress party;
• Whether the CPM can at least form a ‘front’ with the Congress;
• Whether the CPM could have a ‘political understanding’ with the Congress;
• Whether it could have seat adjustments with the Congress in an election; or, at the very least,
• Whether the CPM could have ‘local-level seat adjustments’ with the Congress.
If the above has a comical touch to it, it is only the CPM Polit-Bureau members to be blamed. Unfortunately, it is a Bibilical scene—‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’.
Isn’t it comical that the CPM agonises so much about the Congress rather than the BJP at this point? Don’t the CPM leaders know that the Gujarat election is the leitmotif of Indian politics today? Why is it that none of the CPM Polit-Bureau leaders is even campaigning in Gujarat? Which is where they ought to have been yesterday and the day before that.
The whole country knows that there is a great deal at stake in the outcome of the Gujarat election for Indian politics as a whole in the coming period even as the country inches closer to the 2019 poll. And the plain truth is (unless one is a hopeless moron), it should be obvious to any observer of the Indian political scene that it is the Congress—nay, Rahul Gandhi personally—who is leading the charge of the Opposition in Gujarat.
Even those who were Rahul Gandhi’s detractors have lapsed into stunned silence. What we have is a rare spectacle for any country—and most certainly, in a country of continental proportions such as India—when a truly national figure emerges from the shadows and connects with the land and its sorrows. This is one such historic moment. Can’t the CPM leaders see this rare moment even through their looking glass in faraway Delhi?
The point is: Rahul Gandhi reached this point —as the counterpoint to PM Narendra Modi and the latter’s brand of politics—on his own steam without a helping hand from the CPM. For sure, Rahul Gandhi can do without the CPM’s help, if he must. But then, it is in the CPM’s interest not to be marginalised. It is in the CPM’s interest to be in a position to influence Rahul Gandhi’s politics and give it a progressive orientation. Nay, it is in the interest of the Left movement itself that the CPM is able to contribute to Rahul Gandhi’s political agenda.
Leave out Kerala where it is, understandably, a dire necessity for the CPM to mark distance from the Congress to distinguish itself— especially when the dividing lines are steadily getting blurred in terms of the ‘bourgeois political culture’. But in the rest of India (including West Bengal), where is the question of the CPM having a choice other than grab the nearest straw available if only to stay afloat until another day?
At least at this late hour, the wise men in the CPM Polit-Bureau should realise that by decoupling their party from the Congress, they would also be rendering the Left movement as a whole inconsequential at a historic juncture in national politics.
The heart of the matter is that the political kaleidoscope has dramatically shifted through these recent intense weeks of the Gujarat election campaign. The despair in Modi’s campaign style testifies to it—starting from vikaswaad through caste politics, it is now poised to end as personal vituperation. Rahul Gandhi is hitting where it hurts.
From now onward, it is a moot point who wins or who loses on December 18 in Gujarat. To my mind, the salience lies somewhere else —simply put, there is rekindled hope, ‘We shall overcome.’ There is a Freedom Song in the air. Can’t you hear it? Don’t shut the ears and refuse to hear the Freedom Song out of old-fashioned dogmatism—or, worse still, petulance. Listen to it here being sung in Calicut.
Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).