Arrogance of power, the Left's Nemesis

The shock and despair visible among the Left parties has other dimensions. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat articulates the disappointment, “We had never lost an election since 1977; defeat that we suffered was a source of major concern. We have to undergo a serious examination on how we lost so badly. People seemed to have made up their minds that they wanted change. There was a total unity of all anti-Left forces, but we couldn’t do much to recover ground after 2009,”

CPI leader AB Bardhan goes further, “The extent of the defeat, of course, is surprising. I might even say it’s a shock.” So, for them it is not usual because the model they wanted to showcase for the expansion of the Left ideology in the rest of the country has been lost. The loss, they know, will lead to their reduced role in the national politics. At the local level, the social and political equilibrium they had established during the long 34 years of rule is now under stress.  So, the party is talking of defending the ‘big gains’.

What are these big gains? Obviously, they refer to land reforms and strong panchayats.
Failure of land reforms

But, was this model a perfect one? A senior CPI leader from Bengal who had been to his area during elections,complains that much hyped land reforms was far from perfect and did not reach all sections. The same complaint comes from an ideological rival. Senior CPI (ML) leader Prabhat Kumar, who campaigned in West Bengal for his party’s candidates, says that after ‘Operation Barga’ (recording the number of sharecroppers) nothing significant was done.

The party says that the final blow to the existing rural equilibrium came from the decision to industrialise the state. After all the Left had to answer the urban call, they say. Every one concedes that the Singur and Nandigram proved to be the turning point in the relationship of the Left Front to rural masses of Bengal.

The issue did not remain a concern of the rural masses only; it also alienated Kolkata based intellectuals. It created rifts in the Left Front. Bardhan firmly believes that the strong pressure for change came about due to Singur and Nandigram. He says, “Politically, these two events showed chinks in the Left armour. They showed the Left could be fought and defeated.”

But Singur and Nandigram could be seen as an outcome of the governance which has long been accused of arrogance, and local level corruption. Bardhan talks openly of this ‘arrogance.’ However, with this flawed or inadequate model of governance, the Left has been playing a major role in national politics. This model may not be perfect, but it certainly can not be compared with the rural anarchy the states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh are plagued with. So, the CPM has every reason to defend these ‘big gains’. But, will this suffice?

The CPM and the Left have the primary task of consolidation of the party and the Left Front in West Bengal. They have to save workers from violent attacks. They have to curb exodus. Bitter partners have to make peace. They have to attract the youth from the middle classes. At the same time, they have to discover new ways to play a bigger role in national politics. All these have to be decided at its earliest. The CPM’s  Central Committee will meet in the second week of next month.

The CPI’s National Council is also scheduled next month. However, the CPM is in a dilemma over the question of change in leadership, over the tactical and political line of the party. “The central leadership, from the top — which includes me — has to take the responsibility for this defeat and see how we can get out of it,” says Karat.

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