Sunday, July 05, 2009

Communist problems over internal politics, and perceptions

How quickly the mighty can fall ! Lest that sound like gloating, it is not, it is something that some of the more clear-thinking of the Communist crowd in India must be thinking. Just a couple of years back, they were top of the Government of India. If they said 'nay' to a proposal by the Government, the Government would hem and haw and finally withdraw the proposal, and this was something that the Congress Government accepted as a price to pay for keeping their Government alive. However, it was the nuclear deal that provoked the Government to take a firm stand, and this time, they out-bluffed the Communists, and using all their money and negotiation powers, they managed to win the vote of confidence.
And then came elections 2009, with the Congress coming back to power with much higher numbers, and the Communists getting knocked off their top perch, with their number of seats down to 24. The Communist parties are strong contenders only in 2 states, West Bengal and Kerala, and in both of them, they suffered severe reverses.
The situation in West Bengal is right now pretty severe and potentially life-threatening for the Communist parties. West Bengal is a state that the Communists have been holding onto for decades now, and past predicted anti-Communist waves or Mamta waves have not managed to shake the Left citadel. And then the steps by the Communist leadership in West Bengal to shake their anti-development image (something that was affecting the population since industry is the one that provides employment, directly and indirectly); however, the Communist behaved in their own-ham handed manner and screwed up the entire SEZ debate all over the country.
The attitude of the Communist parties when they believe that they are in the right has always been much more arrogant than that of the other parties, and so it was in this entire 'land for industry' political mine-field. Net result ? They did not get the land or the industries, and scared off large chunks of the voting population (not helped by Mamta's fire-brand scare-mongering tactics). Combine that with the Sachar report that showed that the Communist love for minorities has only resulted in West Bengal being one of the least desirable states for minorities in terms of development.
Now, the Left parties are paying for it. Earlier they were losing municipal elections in the affected districts, then in the Lok Sabha elections, they lost a huge chunk of their seats, and now in the latest municipal elections, they lost badly to Mamta. In addition, Mamta's party are returning the usual fire-power of the CPM with their own force tactics, surprising the Left cadre. The Left is also facing the opposition of the Maoists, something that seems very surprising. And, at a time when the Left needs to be united to be facing such threats, the smaller parties such as the CPI, FB, and RSP, are using the current situation to highlight their grievances, and demand a greater say in the decision making of the Left Government.
In Kerala, on the other hand, the problems are more internal. Internal strife and dissidence is more of a problem of the BJP or the Congress, not so of parties such as the CPM. However, the continuing strife between the Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and the state CPM strongman and state leader, Pinarayi Vijayan, continues and has been badly hurting the party. Vijayan is the ultimate politician, who has total control over the state unit of the CPM, except for the fact that V.S. Achuthanandan is the most popular leader in the party in Kerala, and the party cannot afford to drop him, or continue to subject him to ridicule from the same party (and even from his own ministers).
The problem got far worse when the Governor Kerala, R.S. Gavai, granted permission to the CBI to investigate the charges of corruption against Vijayan. The State Cabinet had decided (over the wishes of Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan) to advice the Governor not to recommend the sanction, and the Governor refused, landing the CPM in a hot case. The CPM cannot afford to have its strongman be accused of multi-crore corruption, and yet cannot also afford to have the spectacle of its own Chief Minister seemingly not being bound by the decision of the state body of the CPM.
In all this, the overall head, Prakash Karat, has lost support. He broke ranks with the Congress over the nuclear deal, something that a number of his own partymen are admitting was a mistake. What does the party do now ? If the current trends continue, the party risks losing its main base of West Bengal.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 8:55 AM