A little less dogma

CPM’s survival and growth may depend on its ability to be more flexible.

By: Express News Service | Updated: March 18, 2016 10:42 am
CPM, CPIM, Left parties, Parkash Karat, west bengal elections, kerala elections, Kerala left party, Kerala CPM, Bengal CPM, bengal cpm cogress alliance, kerala udf, india news, latest news, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat. (Express photo Subham Dutta)

The remarks of former general secretary Prakash Karat, made in an interview to this newspaper, assume significance as the CPM central leadership gets ready to decide whether or not to ally with the Congress in West Bengal. Karat told this newspaper that the CPM follows “a central, all-India political line” and state-specific decisions are not “divorced from the overall political line”. The CPM political line adopted at the recent Visakhapatnam party conference, according to Karat, opposes alliances with both the BJP and the Congress. That is, it is against the BJP government, but without envisaging any understanding with the Congress. Karat’s position, implicit in his interpretation of the line, speaks for a section of the CPM, especially its Kerala unit, which is opposed to the Congress tie-up proposed by the party’s West Bengal unit.

Karat’s severe reading of the political line, however, has implications that travel beyond the West Bengal elections. It suggests a political positioning which has not helped the CPM’s prospects in a time when the federal character of Indian politics necessitates flexibility of tactics and astute coalition-building. An earlier generation of communist leaders knew this and built broadbased political and social alliances that helped the party grow and gain office in some states. In recent years, the CPM has repeatedly let go of opportunities that could have helped the party grow, in the name of ideological purity. In 1996, the United Front chose CPM leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu to head the Central government. Hardliners led by Karat opposed and won the argument in the party. Eight years later, it repeated the “historic blunder”, as Basu described the 1996 decision, and stayed out of the first UPA government. It sought to influence the government from the outside than take responsibility for running it from within. In the event, the Congress got the credit for implementing the social welfare agenda the CPM had advocated. In the 2009 general elections that followed, the UPA got re-elected while the CPM lost miserably. The breakdown in UPA-Left relations helped the Trinamool win West Bengal two years later.

The West Bengal predicament is another test of the CPM’s ability to turn its ear to the ground and adapt its tactics accordingly. Smug confidence in the wisdom of the leadership has been its undoing in West Bengal, where the party ignored popular discontent against certain industrial projects. A little humility vis-a-vis voters and a less doctrinaire view on alliances may help rescue the party from further marginalisation.

  1. P
    pankaj
    Feb 17, 2016 at 2:29 am
    As long as communists are seen anti majority and anti development, their marginalization will continue in this day and age of internet where everyone gets to know everything some time in the future.
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    1. P
      Prakash
      Feb 17, 2016 at 4:17 am
      For the sake of poor and marginalized, Left parties and its ideology should be rooted out. In the guise to pose themselves as saviors these self served comrades have destro the nation and if one doesn't believe they just need to see the state of Bengal. These so called free-speech advocates have brutally killed any opposite views, made sure all other intellectuals except left leaning are against humanity. The systematic oppression has led to bengal universities to a sorry state.
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        Guru
        Feb 21, 2016 at 3:00 pm
        CPM will be extinct in 20 years in Kerala and Bengal.
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          Bala
          Feb 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm
          CPI-M success depends upon how much chaos it can created using Educational insutions as political hot bed and how much dirty it can go to create an atmosphere for the govt to function, in their wrong mission, they are ably isted by the joker Arvind and irresponsible Rahul
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            v b
            Feb 20, 2016 at 7:30 am
            Pragmatism demands that CPM gets into a position of power by allying itself with any Party, be it Congress or BJP or TMC so as to be able to influence Policies and decisions in a direction that is in alignment with its basic ideology of supporting the economically backward people.
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