CPM’s Mix of Wish and Confusion

D. Varma

On the occasion of the CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) meeting in Chennai, V. Sridhar of Frontline interviewed its front man in CPM, the Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat. An excerpt of the interview appeared in the January 2, 2004 issue under the heading “The primary task is to defeat the BJP”. Here Karat provides a pathetic analysis of the November 2003 assembly elections and follows it by a confusing strategy for the future.

His arguments for the BJP victory in three (MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh) of the four states where elections were held is self-contradictory. Pathetically he admits that CPM has yet to develop a strategy to defeat BJP as if the emergence of BJP was as sudden as the collapse of Soviet Union, which too had revealed the utter confusion of the CPM leadership specially when a few generals could not hold Gorbechov in a daccha long enough to save its downfall.

In the '50s and '60s, political analysts, mainly pollsters of the news media, used to say that a ruling party has an edge in elections. Now it is the opposite; it is the anti-incumbency factor, which, according to Karat, led to the defeat of the Congress in three states. Delhi is a special case, according to him, because it is the capital. Karat argues that the Congress lost in the three states because “even basic facilities such as power and roads are in bad shape”. Here he shares the view of BJP that power and roads (needs of the upper middle class and big business) and not jobs, food, shelter and healthcare (need of the masses) are truly basic needs of India. It is no secret that both Congress and BJP have failed the people and both have tried to obscure the issue of hunger and poverty. BJP is obviously better than Congress as an obscurantist force since it has counterposed the need of consuming classes as the need of India and Karat seems to have fallen in this trap.

But leave aside this mismatch of the argument. There is more. Karat emphasizes that: “The defeat of the Congress (I) should not be seen as an endorsement of the policies of BJP.” According to him, this is a “bit of myth” because BJP won 76 of the 99 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes in the three states, which is “primarily a victory for Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and its outfits, which have worked in the tribal areas.” The tribal issue is complex and involves not only land and resource issue but much more. The RSS/BJP run tribal projects/initiatives are channeling genuine tribal anger in their favor. The success of RSS is the success of BJP. But not for Karat. If he represents CPM, CPM might be the only party which demarcates between RSS and BJP. May be Karat also thinks that power and road conditions affect the tribal people the most.

Having said all that, Karat says that “our primary task remains the defeat of BJP and its alliance in the parliamentary elections” but “there is still quite some time (emphasis added) before we arrive at concrete tactics for this”. What is the time-frame of this “quite some time” is not clear since elections have already been announced? Notwithstanding his assessment that “there is no third force”, that such “a force is not even in the process of making”, and that there cannot be a “full-fledged electoral alliance or united front” with Congress, Karat seems optimistic that some equation with regional forces can lead to the demise of BJP although he is “not in a hurry” and “will not from a front prematurely”.

The main dilemma of CPM seems to be the Congress, the lingering question since the '50s surfacing off and on, having split CPI and likely to split CPM. Currently CPM is able to scuttle around this issue by formulating policies clear only to its leaders. CPM’s first priority is to keep BJP away from power (in which it has obviously failed) and have no truck with the Congress (I) and yet on issues “will cooperate” with the Congress. Is the difference among the top leaders of CPM only in the degree of cooperation? Is the policy of liberalization in West Bengal and other states ruled by Samajwadi Party, Congress and TDP very different? Samajwadi party is working with the BJP to polarize the vote. Kalyan singh brought him into power and now he is back in BJP! The economic policies are central to the functioning of a party. In this case all the parties of ruling classes including the social democrats are not very different.

Why doesn’t CPM want to build a united front on the basis of a positive platform – basic issues (not road and power) with clear democratic anti-imperialist program – rather than trying to unite against “communal forces”?

If Congress (I) can defeat BJP in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, it can do so as easily with as without CPM and CPI. CPM will not support Congress (I) in West Bengal and Tripura and has little to offer elsewhere including Kerala. Congress may have the same strategy as CPM, namely alliance with other regional forces. The expediency with which CPM type of left wants to defeat BJP is unrealistic. The strategy cannot be to defeat BJP in the coming elections but to rout BJP and Hindutva fascists from India for good. This alone can be the task of non-opportunist left and this calls for a long-term strategy.q