Battle of existence for Left in Lok Sabha polls

The Left has been worried over eroding voter base across the country and that made the CPI (M) leadership to tweak party line to look for alliances in states.

Published: 31st March 2019 09:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st March 2019 09:36 AM   |  A+A-

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, former general secretary Prakash Karat and other leaders release the party’s manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections at a press conference, in New Delhi on Thursday (Photo | Parveen Negi/EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Left Front led by the CPI (M) was the driving force behind the UPA I in 2004, however, since then the red brigade has seen a consistent decline as far as electorate presence in the country is concerned. With no alliances but in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the party is likely to face the toughest battle for its political existence this Lok Sabha election.  

The Left has been worried over eroding voter base across the country and that made the CPI (M) leadership to tweak party line to look for alliances in states. The Left Front has failed to stitch alliances in states like Bihar and Jharkhand, where they have sizeable presence and had won one seat each in the past. In TN, the Left has joined alliance of DMK-Congress and in Andhra Pradesh with Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena.                

Playing it down, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury says politics is not arithmetic, different situations exist in different states. “In Kerala, Left-led LDF and Congress-led UDF have been contesting against each other. Similarly, in other states, we contested against the Congress even in Tripura and West Bengal till last Assembly polls. The tactics is to maximize pooling of the anti-BJP votes and arrangements have been made in states where there is strong presence of regional parties,” said Yechury.

Alliances: Chance missed

Political experts feel that the CPI(M) alliance with the Congress in Bengal was crucial. “There is a crisis within the party and if they lose existing two LS seats in Bengal, then they become a regional party with presence only in Kerala. At present, CPM is fighting a rearguard battle,” said Pradip Kumar Dutta, Left historian and JNU professor at the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory.

Over the years, the Left Front’s presence has been shrinking in three states – West Bengal, Kerala and Triupura — where it was ruling party to just Kerala now. At the national level, the party which had electorate presence in nine states between 1999 and 2009 was reduced to three states in 2014. 
The Lok Sabha seats won and voter base has been on the decline from 59 seats and a vote share 7.07 per cent when the front was at its peak in 2004 to 10 seats and a vote share 2.68 per cent in 2014.

Lack of commitment

Political experts sense the CPI(M) further losing ground in its once citadel West Bengal and things may revive in Tripura but not very soon and in Kerala they have gained some ground. Lack of commitment among party leaders, weaning leadership at the district and intermediate level and internal rift are the main reasons that political experts cited for decline of the Left.           

Aditya Nigam, fellow of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi agrees that the Left has been losing its relevance. “It was leaders like Jyoti Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet that the CPM carried weight. There is no sense of policies (in present leadership) and it is limited to dogmatic bookish level.” 

Status in Kerala

While situation in Bengal and Tripura looks gloomy for the party, Kerala could be a face saver. The Left Front seems to have made a comeback after facing people’s anger by allowing entry to women in Sabarimala. Timely announcement of candidates has given the front an upper hand over Congress and BJP. Internal differences among the BJP are expected to do some damage to it.

The Congress is yet to announce candidature for Wayanad seat, with speculations that party chief Rahul Gandhi may contest from here along with Amethi. But Datta says that the Left Front vote share in Kerala may go down but it won’t reflect in overall seats.

(Inputs from Arun Lakshman in Kerala)

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