No foothold for Left in its old bastion of Varanasi

No foothold for Left in its old bastion of Varanasi

No foothold for Left in its old bastion of Varanasi

Ram Kumar Gupta, who runs a roadside eatery at the busy Nai Sadak locality here, does not know about Hiralal Yadav, the CPM candidate contesting for Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency along with BJP’s Narendra Modi, Congress’ Ajai Rai and AAP’S Arvind Kejriwal.

The fact that this region was a Left bastion not very long ago may seem strange. It had elected several Left members to Parliament and the state Assembly in the past. It used to be referred to as the “Kerala of the North”.

The Left is now fighting a grim battle for survival in the region amid caste and communal waves that have been sweeping it for the past few decades.

Devashish, the district secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), the trade union wing of the CPM, said Satya Narain Singh of the party was an MP from here in 1967. “People then did not use to vote on caste and religious lines,” he said.
Rustam Satin, another CPM leader, had been an MLA from Varanasi South Assembly constituency in the same year. CPI MLA from Kolasla, Udal had created a record of sorts by representing the constituency nine times.

The Left, Devashish, said, had its presence in Gangapur, an Assembly segment in Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, besides having strong support in the neighbouring districts of Ghazipur and Azamgarh.

Communal politics

Something, however, went wrong in the past few decades and, today, the people of Varanasi do not even know who the CPM nominee is. “Corporatisation, Hindutva ideology, caste and communal politics and individual-centric campaigning have hit us hard. We were not able to withstand the shocks of change,” Devashish told Deccan Herald.
Student Federation of India (SFI) leader Prashant Mukherjee said, “People from the lower castes, who were our main supporters, went to Mayawati while the backward classes sided with other caste-based outfits.

“We had a support base among the sizable Bengali community here but the community members later shifted allegiance to the BJP after Shyamdeo Roy Chowdhary, a Bengali himself, contested polls from here,” he said.

“We have an acute shortage of cadre. We do not have the kind of resources that our rivals have,” he added.

AIDWA’s UP unit chief Madhu Garg said people who take their help in times of difficulty support their rivals during the polls.

Political thinker Pankaj Gautam said that the Left had committed “ideological blunders” which were primarily responsible for its downfall. “The Left failed to realise that the Russia or the China model will not succeed in India. Here, the situation was different. Even die-hard communists were identified by castes,” Gautam said.

“Furthermore, the top leaders of the Left were from upper castes. For the lower caste people, it was not a sign of upliftment. They thought that they were being taken for a ride and gradually got alienated,” he added.

Prashant and Devashish admit that they do not expect much in this poll either. In fact, even loyal Leftists would be surprised if Hiralal Yadav was able to save his security deposit.