The famous ‘historic blunder’ comment, made by veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu while referring to a lost opportunity to lead the United Front government at the Centre over two decades ago, appears to be still haunting his party. By ruling out any kind of alliance or understanding with the Congress ahead of the 2019 general elections, the CPI (M) is clearly headed towards repeating the history instead of re-writing it. Smarting under a steady erosion of its support base across the country, including the once stronghold West Bengal, the Marxist party finds itself stuck at an ideological crossroads. Vertically divided into two warring factions — one led by pragmatic general secretary Sitaram Yechury and another by dogmatic hardliner Prakash Karat — the party is staring at the prospect of further isolation at the national level. During a showdown between the two camps at a stormy meeting of the all-important Central Committee in Kolkata over the weekend, the party voted, by majority, in favour of Karat’s line of ‘no alliance and no understanding with Congress.’ This is not only a serious blow to Yechury, who offered to step down, but would also impede the opposition’s efforts to forge a broad anti-BJP alliance before elections. Two separate draft political resolutions, one proposed by the Yechury camp favouring tactical understanding with the Congress and another opposing any kind of tie-up with the ruling class parties, were put to vote at the meeting, which rejected the general secretary’s formulation by a 55-31 vote. The draft will now go to the party’s triennial national conclave to be held in Hyderabad in April.
The Marxist party needs to do a candid introspection on the reasons for its steady decline across the country. It is now confined to Kerala and Tripura, having lost Bengal after ruling the State for 34 years. The CPI(M) has nine members in the present Lok Sabha, down from 16 in the previous House, while its national vote share has shrunk from 5.33% in 2009 to 3.28% in 2014. A clear disconnect with aspirational middle-class and the post-liberalisation generation, continued peddling of the worn-out cold war era narrative fuelled solely by anti-Americanism, failure to recognise the role of the private enterprise in wealth creation and distribution, visceral hatred for the corporate world and blind opposition to adoption of new technologies and big-ticket projects are some of the factors responsible for the Left parties losing relevance over the years. The comrades need to reinvent themselves in tune with the changing times in order to stay relevant. The Left’s decline has coincided with the rise of the BJP, which has been expanding its footprint across the country.