Introspection needed


With the downfall of the CPI (M) in Tripura and the north-east now looking towards right, it is an appropriate time for the left parties in the country to begin some much needed introspection. In terms of dissection of the vote share, the BJP appears to have cashed in not as much as anti-incumbency factor but the en masse switch over of the Congress voters towards BJP. Though there has been a marginal dent in the vote share of the CPI(M), the fortunes of the Congress have come to an abysmal low in terms of vote share. This may sound promising for the left parties. However, complacency would not be a pragmatic option when the left parties have been consistently finding their popularity eroding. The Left has faced a formidable challenge in the form of a BJP led alliance and fared miserably in Tripura. The CPI (M) has now plunged to its lowest electoral ebb, reduced to 16 seats from 50 in 2013. The plunge wasn’t so sudden. Early signs of such an eventuality were all too visible last summer when seven MLAs in the 60-member assembly defied the party line to vote for NDA’s presidential candidate. But Tripura is not the lone story. The left parties need to look at their trajectory of dwindling popularity in various parts of the country particularly West Bengal and Kerala. West Bengal was an all out left bastion for several decades till Mamta Banerjee’s Trinamool swept Bengal and successfully pushed the Left to the corner. Kerala faces a similar situation where Left has been strong and its power has alternated with brief electoral debacles. BJP now constantly campaigning to improve its vote bank share in Kerala is a formidable challenge for the left parties, who are also unable to maintain consistency in their popularity graph. Tripura is yet another warning of the waning popularity of the Left, if not its complete rout. The Left needs to come to terms with the ground realities of constant decline that are shaped not only by local factors in various pockets but also by the national level changing discourse and the appetite of a large chunk of the masses for communal politics. It will also have to grapple with the failure of the left ideology in a changing milieu both in the country as well as globally. The inability of the left parties to adapt to global socio-economic and political changes in the world today renders the Left completely battered in most parts of the world. The signs of resurgence of Left in various parts of the globe recently including Latin America and Western Europe; even the mesmerisation with Jeremy Corbyn in UK; reveals that wherever the left leadership has been able to innovatively blend left ideology with the changing political and economic scenario, it is by and large much more successful. What is worrying about the Left in India is also the decaying institutional structure of the party, even though in comparison to Congress, the CPI (M) has been able to keep its structure far more disciplined and intact. Besides, its inability to form trucks with any other political formation in an age of alliances also further helps weaken the left electorally. Of greater consequence is the rigidity that often guides the Left ideology which can otherwise have a striking appeal amongst masses in a country of multiple social and economic disparities, especially among the working class. The existence of strong grassroots movements in the country which are left oriented in nature reveal that time is still not up for the Left. The Tripura elections do not quite signal the end of the left ideology. It can still rise from this debacle provided the left leaders are ready for imaginative thinking, innovation, reconstruction and upgradation in keeping with the changing times, needs and issues. The Left has the potential to turn itself into a vibrant, forward looking, progressive and secular force. It must rise up to the need of the time.