Left Parties And Their Leftover Politics Polls 2024

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By Amit Sengupta, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer, TIO: When it comes to the two mainstream Left parties in India, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), and the Communist Party of India (CPI) not only have they forgotten all they have learnt from the theory  and praxis of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Illich Lenin, they seem to have effectively and finally dumped them into the dustbin of history. Despite their portraits which adorn their sprawling party offices.

The philosophers and strategists in their parties, or, whatever remains of that genre, seem to have abandoned their ships, ruined, damaged, and floating in the stagnant waters of an inevitable quagmire, especially in West Bengal and Tripura. Kerala seems to be the last red dot in their fading map, but these mappings, too, seem to be dissolving fast into the vast tidal waves of the Arabian sea.

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Among the several reasons for the fall and fall of the Indian Left in contemporary India, running as parallel to the rise of Neo-Nazi politics, is one so absurd, that one fails to realise if they were at all serious about fighting the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. For reasons known to them only, the Left fielded CPI leader Annie Raja from Wayanad, against the formidable and win-win candidate Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Raja is a highly respected and eminent leader of the women’s front of the CPI, and has been the vanguard in multiple struggles seeking justice for women, across India. She is also closely involved with multiple civil society groups and people’s movements, and is well-known among them. One of the recent examples of her life and times of struggle has been the protracted and peaceful movement led by our world champion women wrestlers against a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ‘bahubali’, Brij Bhushan Singh.

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Singh has been accused of sexually harassing and hounding several women wrestlers over the years, as the chief of the Wrestling Federation of India. The world champions had to sit on a dharna out in the open in Jantar Mantar in Delhi, barricaded by the cops, merely to get an FIR registered against the man.

Singh was, obviously, backed and protected by the top brass in the ruling regime in Delhi. Their non-violent struggle was met with extreme police brutality.

While the women wrestlers protested on the streets of Delhi, close to the new Parliament building on the day of its inauguration with grandiose, religious fanfare, led by a Sengol-holding Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they were dragged, beaten up and arrested by the Delhi police. Annie Raja was in the forefront of this struggle, along with other women’s groups, the All India Students’ Association (AISA), and students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and elsewhere.

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As in the case of Manipur, the PM is yet to utter a single word on their protests, even as they dumped their medals on the streets in Delhi, close to South Block, the centre of power in Delhi.

Annie Raja is the wife of D. Raja, the current general secretary of the CPI. Like her, he too is universally liked, including by Opposition leaders. He is reasonably non-sectarian and open-ended, like his party, and he seems to have always tried to work with flexibility and consensus, for the greater common good of the nation.

The catch is, he has no support or mass base. He has not led even one people’s movement, ever, in his entire Communist life, though he would inevitably join in solidarity. Besides, like Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the CPI-M, which a ‘tailist’ CPI routinely tails, D. Raja has never ever contested elections, nor has shown any inclination to do that.

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That is why, the fielding of Annie against Rahul Gandhi would remain the biggest quiz puzzle in these tightly-fought elections. Was it to gain propaganda for the party?

Was it to showcase women’s empowerment in a highly literate and politically aware state? Was it to find a foothold in the declining fortunes of the CPI?

That she would lose, and lose badly, was a given. And why choose an opponent like Gandhi who has been out on the streets, across the lanes and by-lanes of this vast country, walking thousands of miles, in scorching sunshine, pouring rain, and freezing cold, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir?

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In a difficult phase for the country, when Gandhi was trying his best to unite all the opposition forces, and with extreme flexibility, devoid of ego or arrogance, why was she chosen to fight against him in Wayanad?

When the crucial need of the hour was to defeat the powerful fascist forces with deep pockets, with formidable and well-oiled electoral machinery, backed by muscle power, why pick Rahul Gandhi as an electoral opponent? With the respect and admiration she has acquired over the years, Annie could have taken up the fight against Brij Bhushan Singh in Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh. That would have really sent a clear message to the Neo-Nazis.

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She could have picked up Rohtak in Haryana, or the homeland of the women wrestlers, and taken the fight to the opposition camp. Certainly, and undoubtedly, she would have, then, got the united support of all the opposition parties, and, especially, the women of Haryana and India.

Instead, she has disappeared. So what happened? Did she lose her deposit? Will D. Raja and his party do any self-criticism on her defeat?

In this dismal lack of both tactics and strategic application of mind, the Left in West Bengal, led by a discredited and demoralised CPI-M leadership, fared no better. Despite the fact that the new general secretary of the state unit, a highly respected and popular Mohammad Salim, has tried his best to resurrect the organisation, the party has lost most of its cadre and support-base, especially in their erstwhile strongholds in rural Bengal.

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Witness the tragic realism that they have yet again reached the landmark of zero as in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, while in the current Assembly the zero, like a curse, seems to have stuck on their foreheads. Indeed, shamefully, a large chunk of the Left support-base voted for the BJP in 2019, so intense was their mindless hatred against Mamata Banerjee.

More shamefully, for the first time in its history, the BJP had won 18 parliamentary seats in 2019, thanks to the CPI-M. The inner line then, secretly sold to the cadre and supporters was rather funny – ‘Ekushe Ram, Choubishe Baam’ in 2021, let it be Ram, because, in 2024, it will be the Left)”.

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Pray, whatever happened to the decades-old ideological training imparted to them, after more than 30 years of unilateral, one-dimensional hegemony over Bengal, whereby extra-constitution power structures ruled supreme in towns and rural Bengal?

As many as 27 of the 29 Left candidates, forfeited their deposits. Two CPM heavyweights —Salim and Sujan Chakraborty, however, got back their deposits. Among the Left-Congress combine, only six of the 42 candidates, about 14 per cent, managed to scrape through without forfeiting their deposits.

Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress, lost in his own constituency – Berhampur – his original stronghold. The relentless bad-mouthing of Mamata Banerjee, despite being tipped off by the Congress high command, did not help.

Contrast this with the Trinamool Congress and the BJP. Not one of their candidates lost their deposit.

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“We understood that the ground situation was quite tough for us. But, since last year’s gram panchayat elections, we had been trying to build up an organisation at the grassroots. The crowds our rallies drew made us optimistic. We did not imagine this outcome,” a CPI-M state committee member was quoted saying by the ‘Telegraph’.

While getting rid of its ageing leadership, the party did well now, and during the Assembly polls in 2021, by fielding some popular young leaders. However, their dismal performance has been a dampener.

In the prestigious Jadavpur constituency in the heart of Kolkata, the party’s youth wing leader, Srijan Bhattacharyya, was able to get only 2,58,712 of the 15.66 lakh (16.52 per cent) votes. Similarly, Dipsita Dhar, who holds great promise as a youth leader, could get only 2,39,146 (16.2 per cent) of the total of 14.76 lakh votes polled in Serampore.

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Contrast this with an effective grassroots communist organisation, which has fought relentlessly, and over many years, for the poorest, in the deepest, toughest and marginalised interiors of Bihar, and against all odds – the CPI-ML(Liberation).

Though restricted to Bihar and Jharkhand, they have consolidated their organisational strength and formidable support base, not only in their strongholds, but across the vast landscape of this caste-divided state.

Needless to say, their constituency has always been the poorest-of-the-poor, Dalits, Adivasis, backward communities, and the minorities, especially women, who are often in the vanguard.

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They have won two crucial Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, defeating very strong candidates, plus one assembly by-election as bonus. Dr Sandeep Saurav, former JNUSU general secretary, and a current MLA, gave a tough fight in Nalanda. He was runners-up in the polls. Besides, they helped the Mahagathbandhan in several other constituencies.

The party won in Karakat and Arrah, led by Rajaram Singh and Sudama Prasad. Besides, after the disqualification of Manoj Manzil as the MLA from Agiaon in Bihar, due to his recent imprisonment in what is alleged to be a politically motivated case, Shivprakash Ranjan of the party has won the Agiaon bypolls.

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The party had also contested independently in Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, Koraput in Odisha and Bardhaman Purba in West Bengal.

In a post-poll statement, the party general secretary, Dipankar Bhattacharya, said, “The Lok Sabha election results are a mandate against Narendra Modi’s dictatorship, and is a victory for democracy and the Constitution.

“The performance of the I.N.D.I.A alliance in Uttar Pradesh has paved the way for the success of the alliance in the country, which is a befitting reply to the BJP and a rejection of the regime led by Modi and Amit Shah. The livelihood crisis of the people and the divisive policies adopted by the BJP has also been defeated.

“The CPI-ML welcomes the mandate of the people of the country. Our fight for democracy and the Constitution shall continue!”

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Not surprisingly, and following the pattern of its Bengal counterpart, the CPI-M could win only one seat out of the 20 in Kerala. If the BJP could win, for the first time, one seat, as in Thrissur, it was basically because the party had underestimated its electoral prowess propelled by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and had concentrated only on attacking the Congress.

Two CPI-M stalwarts, former ministers K. K. Shailaja ‘Teacher’ and T. M. Thomas Isaac, have lost in Vadakara and Pathanamthitta.

Besides, the BJP has gained in 11 Assembly constituencies. This will be a headache for both the Left and the Congress in the next Assembly polls in the state.

Clearly, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is on a sticky wicket now, despite his exemplary performance in the first term, which propelled him and his party to a victory in the next term – a rare phenomenon in Kerala.

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In an insightful and analytic post-poll article in ‘’, Anuraj Ennai, an entrepreneur based in Kerala, has pointed out certain crucial factors:

  1. Kerala’s CPI-M badly needs a course-correction. The Kerala society has changed and the party has to change too. Pinarayi Vijayan cannot be the face of that change.
  2. In the past 40 years – Kerala has become a predominantly middle class society and the party has to cater to their aspirations.
  3. The party comes out as a (upper caste) savarna-leaning organisation. The haste and injustice in applying EWS reservation, even undermining Dalit and backward classes opportunities, has alienated the masses from the party. Even Dalit scholarships were not distributed properly.
  4. The party has no effective mechanism to counter the wider mainstream and social media narratives being peddled.
  5. Under Pinarayi – the home ministry has become like a central department. Sangh Parivar interests are being catered to by the police force. Even the boards of police stations are in Hindi, even though Hindi is not an official language of Kerala.

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He has recommended police reforms. The caste census should be implemented and SC/OBC reservations must be updated.

The EWS reservations have to be reviewed, based on backwardness. Focused programmes to cater to Dalit and backward groups should be urgently initiated. Most crucially, the party has to promote rationalism and shun any type of religious pandering.

Indeed, in this pessimistic scenario, will the discredited Left of the mainstream, choose to do serious self-criticism and self-introspection? Will it learn its lessons from contemporary history?

Will it dare to take on the neo-fascist forces in the country, and especially at the grassroots? Will its decadent and affluent intelligentsia, wallowing in their eternal comfort zones, even remotely try to come out of their cocooned shells and join the people’s struggle? Will the mainstream Left galvanise the youth, students, farmers, women, civil society groups, social movements, and the oppressed marginalised sections, to rediscover its original political and social agenda, and choose to resurrect the forgotten paradigm of theory and praxis?

Or will it, yet again, choose the shallow and sectarian stasis of sustained stagnation and  apathy?

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Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai

First Published in

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Amit Sengupta

Amit Sengupta

Amit Sengupta is an independent journalist, academic, and writer. He has worked across the mainstream Indian media in national English dailies and magazines as a senior editor for more than three decades. He has been Associate Professor, English Journalism, IIMC, Delhi, Visiting Faculty, MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, and Dean, NISCORT Media College, NCR, Delhi. He was a Fellow at Wellesley College, Boston, in 2016. He lectures across India and on campuses, dies Creative Writing Workshops, and writes for national and international media outfits. He has reported from the ground in India and abroad for many years. 

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