What is left of the Left?
We might see Communist Parties reduced to single digit this 2019. Irrespective of who forms the government, future of overground Communist movement is bleak in India
General Elections 2019 are about to be over and exit polls will set the trends in a week. Though my bets are on BJP/NDA, there are people who will be rooting for “Mix and Match government” of sundry combinations opposed to BJP and a weak PM who can be ordered around. Recall I K Gujral et al.
For many like me, this election is not just about vikas, but also about the way we look at our nation. As a nascent nation midwifed by Nehru, born on August 15, 1947, facilitated by British or an ancient civilisational nation that was chained in slavery for 1000-1200 years. Collective amnesia ably promoted by Nehruvians and Marxists for 70 years hasn’t succeeded. Something magical has happened, the old civilisational memories have come back flooding over last few years, being nurtured by RSS for over 90 years and ably supported by great rishis and scholars of India. This election will decide whether India will remain a struggling democracy with the sole aim of surviving and making ends meet or an aspirational young nation that wishes to make its presence felt in the world and probably lead it in the philosophy of co-existence.
The underground violent strain of Communism – the Maoist groups may survive for a few more years because of a benign government in ChhattisgarhWe will know about this battle of narratives shortly when results come out. However, one thing is very clear. Whichever side wins; the biggest losers will be Communists. After first general elections, Communists were the second largest party, though much behind the Congress. They became a big bloc after 2004 but lost major ground again in 2009. They were present in pockets across India once — Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh (Telangana), Karnataka, U.P, Bihar and of course, Bengal, Tripura and Kerala.
First democratically elected government of Communists in the world came up in Kerala. Kicking out Communists by misuse of Constitution by Congress under Indira Gandhi in 1959, proved to be a boon for Communists as it helped them create a sense of purpose against the injustice of ‘Centre’. Kerala was progressive and educated. It had an abundance of natural wealth but small land mass. Education reached every corner of Kerala, but trade unionism slowly killed the industry. Educated industrious Keralites began moving out in droves. What passed off as a successful model of growth actually was a money transfer economy with money flowing in from the West Asia from
hard-working Keralites.
Peculiar caste and communal groupings kept Communist parties alive with change in government in every elections. However, the Sabarimala conundrum accentuated by the vicious deliberate insult to Hindu traditions and Hindu women in particular has changed the equations completely. The caste and communal equations will change post-Sabarimala. There are chances that Communists may lose their last bastion in this election and find it severely weakened when next assembly elections come. BJP with sizeable number of votes may put a foothold in the door in Kerala politics and then on it can only get stronger. This, terminal decline of Communists in Kerala will begin with these elections.
The Communist party in Bengal rose on the shoulders of ex-Congress groups and violent persecution by Congress by the close colleague of Indira Gandhi, Shri SS Ray. Initial successes in land reforms in Bengal saw rise in popularity of Communists and it was cemented by a ‘bhadralok’ image of Comrade Jyoti Basu. But, economically, Bengal began to lose its sheen and industry began to close down or move out due to aggressive trade unionism of Communists abetted by the government. It survived with its strong arm and smart tactics of patronising its cadre with state money under different schemes. Inertia set in, Jyoti Babu retired. The failures of Communist governments came into open. Congress party without power weakened. It lost will to fight and we saw rise of Mamata Banerjee. The street fighter politician turned the table and violence met with violence. Finally, Communists lost. Their will to fight on streets had ebbed with three decades in power. Its street goons too went over to the new ruling dispensation. Now, we see TMC vs BJP in Bengal. Communists have been relegated to third position with Congress a distant fourth.
Tripura was strongly dominated by Communists who used good honest image of their CM to rule the small state with iron fist. This article is too small to get into details. But, we know that Tripura was kept out of national mainstream and local populace had no access to basic amenities or state support till they were members of Communist party or had right contacts. With strong resolute sense, BJP was able to end the totalitarian regime. Because of its poor track record that kept Tripura poor and deprived there is no way Communists can come to power in near future, unless BJP falters in a big way.
Communists were nearly wiped out of small pockets of their influence over time for wrongly aligning with Congress or ‘like-minded’ parties, supporting Indira Gandhi blindly during Emergency and so on. It was also due to their refusal to go beyond Cold War rhetoric and calcification of their ideology.
During all these years, their smartest move was to infiltrate academia and media with the full support of Nehru and then Indira Gandhi. Thus, their presence is much stronger and voice much louder in these two power centres that control the narrative. They invested their might and State’s funds and power to create a narrative that was at variance with common popular narrative passed on from generation to generation to India’s ‘unwashed millions’ and remained in their collective memory.
Now Communists are trying to ride on the coattails of regional parties. If there is no Modi wave as many wish to believe, then they hope to get some scattered success. But, if there is even a weak Modi wave, forget big wave, they will be washed away.
The underground violent strain of Communism – the Maoist groups may survive for a few more years, because of a benign government in Chhattisgarh. Otherwise, it would have been a matter of 3-4 years before it was contained totally.
What is left for Communists? A few seats in Kerala. May be 4-5? Opinion polls predict zero seats in Bengal. Let us assume they will get two seats? All said and done, we might see Communist Parties in single digit this 2019. Irrespective of who forms the government, future of overground Communist movement is bleak in India.
Campus-based and media-based Communist/Left groups have survived and thrived as parasites living off government funds and overt and covert support from overseas agencies. If Modi continues, which is highly probable, they too will lose their sway in the next five years. That is why we see such intolerance and bitterness in media. It is a matter of survival for them. All said and done, Communism in India is in for a terminal decline. In the battle for the soul of Bharat, this will be a very significant development.
(The writer is an author & columnist)