If neo-liberal economic policy of the Congress is an issue, how come the CPM has alliances with bourgeois parties like JDS and NCP in Kerala and are in talks with other regional parties like the DMK for electoral pact? The record of regional parties is even worse in the sense that they not only follow neo-liberal policies but can also sup with the BJP without conscience prick.
Prakash Karat-led CPM faction is opposed to any truck with the Congress for two stated reasons; ideological opposition to neo-liberal economic policy being pursued by the Grand Old Party and the fear that any understanding with Congress will diminish CPM’s 2019 Lok Sabha tally in Kerala. If the latter argument is taken seriously, it would then mean that the CPM is unwilling to sacrifice Kerala for India for the sake of Opposition unity even if BJP returns to power. Of the 543 (elected) Sabha seats, 523 come from states outside, but the frog in the well syndrome has accentuated factional feuds between groups led by general secretary Sitaram Yechury and the Kerala lobby. And as regards opposition to neo-liberal policy, it is another fig leaf.
Questions are raised even by Left intellectuals as to why the Karat faction, bolstered by powerful Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his camp followers insist on vetoing an inclusive Opposition alliance. Their uncompromising stand against Congress has fuelled speculation of extraneous factors at play. Some suspect it is borne out of an unconscious fear of CBI, especially at a time when the caged parrot toil under an echo-system controlled by two powerful men — PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
Though the unanimous view in the CPM is that BJP should be defeated, the comrades are divided over the means to achieve this end. The draft political resolution moved by the Karat group in the Kolkata Central Committee meeting last month, said: “Thus, the main task is to defeat the BJP and its allies by rallying all the secular and democratic forces. However, this has to be done without having an understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress party.”
If the priority is defeating BJP, can the CPM and a few regional parties dislodge an entrenched BJP? Disagreeing with Karat group, the Yechury faction says the BJP-RSS combine has become dreadfully powerful that it cannot be defeated by conventional politics and that an umbrella coalition of all left-secular-democratic forces, that includes Congress, is of paramount importance to stop the BJP juggernaut. One small concession conceded by Karat camp is that while CPM will not have any understanding with the Congress, it can collaborate with regional parties in states even if those parties have tie-ups with the Congress. Is it not a convoluted approach?
If neo-liberal economic policy of the Congress is an issue, how come the CPM has alliances with bourgeois parties like JDS and NCP in Kerala and are in talks with other regional parties like the DMK for electoral pact? The record of regional parties is even worse in the sense that they not only follow neo-liberal policies but can also sup with the BJP without conscience prick. From time to time, the BJP has used secular parties like JDU, DMK, ADMK, TMC, LJP and TDP as ladder to grow in their respective states. Therefore, blacklisting the Congress on the specious neo-liberal policy premise makes little sense. If the CPM was so concerned about defeating the BJP, why it did not support the AAP in Delhi and the Grand Alliance in Bihar in 2015?
And why was neo-liberal policy not a big issue in 2004, when the CPM headed by late Harkishan Singh Surjeet backed the Congress-led UPA to keep the BJP at bay? Surjeet, a seasoned politician, had read the writings on the wall and in 1996 and 2004 and he deviated from the sacrosanct political-tactical line to prop up the United Front and the UPA respectively. Why then is neo-liberal policy an issue now when the threat from fascistic forces are greater than in 2004?
The fear that any tie-up with Congress will diminish CPM’s Kerala Lok Sabha tally in 2019 too is unfounded. The irony is that, in 2004, with Congress as an ally, the CPM won a record 43 Lok Sabha seats, highest ever in party’s history and in Kerala the Left Front bagged 16 (CPM secured 12) out of the 20 Parliament seats reducing the Congress to zilch. In fact, the CPM’s misfortune grew after it hurriedly withdrew support to UPA government protesting Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008. In the 2009 Parliament elections, the Congress tally rose to 206 from 145 whereas the CPM’s score plummeted to 16 from 43 and it shrunk further to just 9 in 2014. In 2011 it lost West Bengal too. It is apparent that the problem lies elsewhere, not in the Congress but in the CPM leadership.
Critics, therefore, suspect that there is something more than meets the eye. Top Kerala CPM leadership is entangled in three cases (criminal and financial fraud) and one of them is being probed by the CBI. An uncharitable conjecture is that some leaders may be trying to buy peace with BJP. The CBI has recently filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the clean chit given to Kerala CM in the SNC-Lavalin kickbacks case by the High Court. The Court is also hearing a demand for a CBI probe into the 2012 murder of firebrand leader TP Chandrasekharan, who had fallen out with the state CPM leadership and floated Revolutionary Marxist Party. And last week another mishap visited them. Binoy V Balakrishnan, son of state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, was named an accused in Rs 13 crore cheating case by a Dubai firm.
Binoy Balakrishnan episode has added another twist in the proxy war between Yechury and Pinarayi. On Sunday at a party meeting in Kerala, some leaders slammed Yechury for confirming that the party received a complaint against Balakrishnan Jr for the alleged fraud. Media reports said they resorted to personal attacks on the general secretary in their speeches. The BJP has now three issues to arm-twist the Marxist leadership in Kerala. How the party negotiates the minefield remains to be seen. The 22nd party Congress in Hyderabad in April will give an opportunity for the comrades to set their house in order.
The author is an independent journalist.