The Left movement has been passing through a bad patch for some years; a situation that got heightened by the humiliating defeat of the CPI(M) in West Bengal and later followed by Tripura. A loss of power by itself should not be a matter of serious concern for leftists who are known to fight their battles more on the ideological level. But, what the CPI(M) and other left parties faced in the two states – where they held sway for decades – was worse: a large-scale erosion of popular support. Politics now revolves less around ideologies and more around situations on the ground. Clearly, the CPI(M) and other leftists have not been able to rise to the expectations of the people and hence failed to gain their support. Their strength in parliament, reflective of the national mood, has dwindled to dismal levels. It is against this backdrop that the 22nd party congress of the CPI(M) was held in Hyderabad this past week.
The meet that drew leaders from across the nation looks like having concentrated its full attention on the contentious issue as to whether there could be an alliance with the Congress. The stand taken by party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, seeking ties with the Congress to defeat the main enemy the BJP so as to throw the saffron party from power at the Centre, has won support from 16 state units. The political resolution, which saw two rounds of amendments and play of words, was adopted with voting on the basis of a consensus formula.
Clearly, the Yechury side carried the day and the prominent Bengal unit heaved a sigh of relief.
The Kerala unit, which backed the Prakash Karat line of having no truck whatsoever with the Congress, lost out. Conventional wisdom demands that the CPI(M) forged ties with a strong national entity like the Congress, as not only of the CPI(M) but of the total left’s survival is at stake in the new political configuration. Most state units of the CPI(M) are as good as defunct and are not able to win even a ward election. This also seems to have weighed heavily in favour of these entities’ desire to have ties with the Congress. On the other hand, the Congress party is the principal rival to the CPI(M) in Kerala. A party that ties itself with the Congress at the national level cannot justify its fight with the same party at a state level. Be that as it may, the good thing is that the party has gotten over the issue in an amicable manner and talks of a likely split in the CPI(M) proved to be unfounded.
This apart, however, nothing much has emerged from the five-day confabulations other than the media hype. There was no discussion even on the party’s pet themes like globalisation, neo-liberal policies of the Centre, the ‘corporate exploitation’ of the country, or on social themes. The main aim of the party, as Yechury said, was to bring down the BJP government at the Centre. Granted that this happens, or if the Congress returns to power, the Left can be trusted to take on the tricolour party with equal vehemence and keep demanding its ouster from power over its neo-liberal policies or whatever. That has been the case in the past. Until the BJP won the 2014 polls, the Left fought the Congress-led Manmohan Singh government tooth and nail.
Herein lies a problem of credibility. Overall, the 22nd party congress appears to have proven yet again the ideological bankruptcy of the CPI(M).
It is common knowledge that the new generation of Indians have little love lost for the Left. The understanding of what the Left ideology stands for is not visible amongst the young in a country like India with its teeming millions of poverty-stricken citizens primarily because of the leadership of the political outfits that were supposed to denote progressive thoughts. The failure of leftists in India, therefore, was not because of shortcomings in the idea itself but because of the human resource that got involved in its propagation. This problem may be acute but is not confined to India. The organizational report presented at the party congress stresses on this and says the party has not be able to draw not just youths but women too into its ranks. Little wonder, then, that the party is increasingly getting edged out or confined to play a marginal role in national politics.
Significantly, nothing that came out of the party congress this time has given hope to either the youth or women of the country. Even on the labour front, the left unions are on the downslide.
Sitaram Yechury has a lot of energy left in him, and this was amply demonstrated in Rajya Sabha as also outside. Even the victory for him at the 22nd party congress over forces pitted against him is proof of his energetic espousal of a cause he holds dear. He may use this energy in ways so as to strengthen the cause of the Left in more meaningful and result-oriented ways in his second innings as general secretary.