The 22nd party congress of the CPI(M), the biggest Left party in India, concluded in Hyderabad on April 22. The message of the party congress was loud and clear. Sitaram Yechury and the pragmatists in the CPI(M), largely backed by Bengal unit of the party, had emerged victorious. Prakash Karat and the dogmatists in the party backed by Kerala unit largely had failed to maintain their political line, which was to not have any electoral alliance with the Congress.
Also, the dogmatists failed to have Sitaram Yechury replaced as the General Secretary. This sent out a wave of enthusiastic response from across the left-liberal sections the opposition camp and sympathisers of the Left.
So what is the big deal about an understanding between the Congress and the Left? Well, it opens a pandora’s box of possibilities as far as the Congress and the Left are concerned.
Let us look at Bengal specifically for a while. The communal polarisation during the Ram Navami celebrations by the BJP has shown that it is playing the communal card to become the primary opposition in Bengal. The Trinamool Congress has also been feeding on minority appeasement which is raising suspicion in the minds of Hindus who are slowly drifting to the BJP. This has pushed the Left and the Congress into a corner and there is a serious chance of BJP becoming the main opposition in Bengal. No wonder then that as soon as the 22nd party congress was concluded in favour of ‘understanding’ with the Congress, the Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury expressed his satisfaction and hope that the Congress and Left could now go ahead with a full steam based on their understanding in Bengal.
It is clear to both the Left and the Congress that it is imperative for them to work together, starting from the panchayat polls to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls if they want to halt the BJP and check the supremacy of the TMC.
Congress needs to perform well and try to win most of the states going to polls in 2018 – especially in places where they are in direct opposition to the BJP such as Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh. If they could win even three out of the four states mentioned above, the Congress would become the defacto leader of the opposition camp. If it fails to win in three states or more, the opposition camp of the TMC, TRS, BJD, TDP which wants to maintain its distance from the Congress would try to take the lead to form the third front. Hence, it is imperative for the Congress to win Karnataka and Rajasthan and at least come close to winning Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. A win in Karnataka for the Congress would set the ball rolling.
Who could be the key players for a possible UPA-III? In my opinion, the Congress could form an alliance with the CPI, CPI(M), NCP, SP, BSP, NC, DMK, RJD. We could also have the TMC, YSR Congress and TRS supporting or joining the UPA – III.
Let us look at some of the key state-level alliances which could give the BJP a run for their money:
Tamil Nadu: DMK+Congress+Left
West Bengal: Left+Congress
Uttar Pradesh: SP+BSP+Congress
Jammu and Kashmir: NC+Congress
In my opinion, these are the key state-level alliances which could turn the tables on the BJP. But a lot will hinge on how the Congress performs against the BJP in states where they are the primary opposition. To emerge as the principal opposition, the Congress needs to perform well in these states. In my view, no real alternative is possible without the Congress. All these talks of a third or fourth front are not very practical and sustainable.
Only a UPA-III, headed by the Congress and glued together by the Left, based on secularism, social justice and welfare economics could be a credible alternative to the present government.