When a great edifice falls, the reverberations are felt through decades and geographical expanses. It leaves behind a great vacuum to be filled, either by a piebald version of itself or its ideological opposites. Even though the Soviet Union collapsed on December 25, 1991, its ghost lived on in India. The fall of the Communist bastion in Tripura has more to do with the contradictions of history than the remarkable surge of the BJP. The sight of jubilant BJP workers bringing down Lenin’s statue in Belonia and playing football with his head were sights reminiscent of the days of liberation that swept through Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall collapsed on November 9, 1989.
Communism was always a genetically flawed graft in Indian politics. Inherently it is the bipolar opposite of democracy and encourages total state control over minds, bodies and work. It outlaws private ownership and religion. The ‘‘dictatorship of the proletariat’’ even as a verbal supposition is dangerous to democracy. No wonder, Communist states were dictatorships that sent millions of their citizens to concentration camps and prisons. The secret police invaded every aspect of life, encouraging treachery and torture. Agents arrested and murdered free thinkers and artists. Journalism was a mouth piece for the tyrants. Personality cults, party elites and massive military expenditure mark the Communist state. It ruled through fear, because it was driven by the fear of death. Even its flag was the colour of blood.
Communism was not able to flourish in India, where it had to participate in free and fair elections. In 1947, India was already heady with the fruits of non-violent revolution, and there was no place for a violent one like Lenin’s. From the beginning itself, Communism was a doomed enterprise in India. The Communist Party here was created by Stalin’s representatives, both foreign and domestic. As an ideological bonsai, it was an imperfect entity, pruned by its Soviet-obsessed leaders to suit the political weather in India. The fact that it was able to survive so long was thanks to the socialist, public sector, labour union-oriented economic structure created by the Congress Party. It was even forced to change with the 1990s reform tide; Left governments pragmatically held investment meets and other capitalist means to keep their state coffers full.
By then the CPI(M) had become a regional party with local franchises in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. And true to its violent spirit, its ruled through intimidation and murder. Like its Russian masters, the Indian Left, too, created icons like Jyoti Basu, EMS Namboodiripad and Manik Sarkar who became its reigning deities. It was a grotesque parody of a long dead era, with the hawkish Prakash Karat playing Stalin to Sitaram Yechury’s Gorbachev. Staying true to their ideological tenets, the Communists adopted Hinduism as their enemy. This wrote the epitaph of its India experiment since belief is an integral part of Indian society, and is protected by democracy.
The only state the Left is left with is Kerala. Communism is not dead in India yet, since it has been legitimised by the Election Commission. It has a strong cadre, funds and motivated leaders. It will win seats and may even form governments in the future. But the number of votes it polls will soon be votes against an opposing party rather than votes cast in favour of the red revolution. This is when tragedy will truly repeat as farce.