By Arati Nair:13th March 2015 was a black day for Kerala politics. I remember tuning into the state budget presentation early in the morning, amidst a violent uproar in the assembly, Finance Minister K.M. Mani read a few select lines, and declared the budget as presented. Despite a case being registered against him in the infamous bar bribery case, the opposition (Left Democratic Front-LDF) failed to exploit the situation and corner him. The members of the LDF, comprising chiefly of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)], scuttled about screaming, scratching, biting and haranguing, all in vain.
This episode underscored the Communist Party’s desperation in the neoliberal framework of Indian politics. Save for the stronghold in Tripura, it has fallen swiftly from the high pedestal of invincibility, into the abyss of irrelevance.
It is in this backdrop that the elevation of Sitaram Yechury as CPI (M)’s general secretary gains pertinence. Yechury served as a member of the Central Committee of CPI (M) as well as the Politburo. He also headed the party’s International Department and had been the editor of the party organ ‘People’s Democracy‘ for a long time. A pragmatic leader of great eloquence, his leadership would infuse fresh morale into party cadres after a poor performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, or so the party believes.
All things said and done, Mr. Yechury has his task cut out for him.
The disconnect of the party with the masses, the lack of a robust organizational structure, with able regional leadership and the self-confessed grave error of withdrawal of support to the UPA during the nuclear deal, delivered a bloody blow to the Left in successive elections, eroding its fortunes even in past bastions like West Bengal and Kerala. The party machinery failed to mobilize support and promote its idea among the youth, the urban poor and the middle class.
Uncompromising in their stance for a long time, the party’s zealous industrialization strategy in West Bengal was the antithesis of its national agenda. Its approach towards the Singur Tata project had capitalistic undertones, while its apathy for the Nandigram killings further tarnished the party’s pro-poor image. Its rift with the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and excessive combativeness, leading to internal factionalism, has dwindled its clout in Kerala.
All aforementioned incidents have been dismissed by the Left as mere anomalies that can be rectified in the long-term. But feigning ignorance has proven counterproductive. For resurrecting the fading Left ideology in India, a comprehensive intra-party renaissance needs to be undertaken.
Instead of closet discussions by the party intelligentsia, the current national scenario demands revival of the welfare-state ideology through grass-root level interactions. The party ought to emerge as the voice of all disconcerted sections, rather than a mere mouthpiece for the ‘working class’, labourers etc. Its clear opinion against capital punishment and vociferous support for the annulment of section 66A have remained mere flashes in the pan. An aggressive campaign against divisive communal politics is on the cards for the party, as also taking the government to task for its business centric economic model.
Just for the primordial balance between the Left, Right and Centre, one can hope that Mr.Yechury brings about a metamorphosis. But that can only be if his comrades read the writing on the wall and work together vigorously.