We have to sympathise with communist hardliner Prakash Karat. He is unable to decide whether Enemy No. 1 is the BJP or Sitaram Yechury. In public he said it was the BJP. In action he moved against Yechury’s line of electoral understanding with other parties including the Congress.
His stand was such a boost to RSS-BJP that their party organ wrote an editorial saying Karat was “right”. That’s a testimonial no other communist leader has got from Hindutva circles. Harkishan Singh Surjeet who spent a lifetime bringing differing opinions together must have turned over and over again in his grave.
It is not difficult to see that Karat took his inspiration from Pinarayi Vijayan, the Marxist ruler of Kerala and, as such, the principal bread-winner of the CPM today. For Pinarayi an anti-Congress stand makes local sense because the Congress is his Enemy No. 1 in Kerala. But India is different from Kerala. Pinarayi is shrewd and cunning enough to cultivate the BJP Prime Minister and to leave Kerala’s Congress corruption kings undisturbed despite his pre-election threats to punish them. Such a pragmatist could not be unaware of the need to sup with the devil to win the battle against Enemy No. 1.
Karat’s (and Pinarayi’s) opposition to electoral deals is questionable in doctrinaire terms as well. Puritans talk of vulgar Marxism which is defined as “a variety of economic determinism with the alleged determination of the ideological superstructure by the economic infrastructure”. (Marxists are unbeatable in the pyrotechnics of language). But there is inherent hypocrisy in their accepting the parliamentary system. Honest communism swears by revolution and revolution alone. Participation in parliamentary activities creates, according to the purists, “parliamentary illusions among the masses” leading them to believe that changes can be brought about through means other than “the struggle to replace bourgeois democracy with socialist democracy”.
Karat has accepted bourgeois democracy. Otherwise he would be with the Naxalites. He and his party have been participating in electoral politics. He even accepted the idea of alliances with other parties—all of them bourgeois of course—in order to fight elections. He and his CPM were part of the 12-party alliance that put Manmohan Singh’s UPA Government in power in 2004. (Four years later he led the Left Front out of it).
Once you accept electoral politics, you have to accept its logic. And there is only one purpose around which that logic revolves: Winning. Karat contradicts himself when he enters muddy waters and insists that his shirt should stay stainless. Such insistence can come only from a mind that is already stained.
Democracy can of course be debunked as a system because it puts the corrupt and the criminal in power. There is a German-American economist, Hans-Hermann Hoppe who is described as “a paleolibertarian anarcho-capitalist philosopher”. According to him “prime ministers and presidents are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhabited demagogues. Thus, democracy virtually assures that only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of government.”
Many of us might say Amen to that. Karat is free to do so and stay away from the game of demagogues. But the CPM is an active player in the game. It is in power in Kerala triumphantly and in Tripura shakingly. It is fighting elections and it wants to win. It does form alliances. In Kerala and Tripura, the CPM is in alliance with other parties. The BJP, too, is in alliance with others where it rules. Stalin collaborated with the UK-US to defeat the common enemy, Hitler.
In today’s situation, a sort of two-party system dominates India. It is the BJP versus others. This is the result of the BJP being the only party that seeks a communally polarised India based on an extremist Hindutva ideology. The dangerous implications of this surfaced as soon as the BJP assumed power in Delhi in 2004; violent groups appeared across the country lynching and whipping and humiliating handpicked victims while the Government looked the other way.
It was to save India from a Pakistan-like fundamentalist religiosity that politicians raised the slogan of uniting against the BJP. That such unity can indeed save India was proved in the recent Gujarat elections. If Sharad Pawar’s NCP had not split votes, the BJP would have been defeated in its home state. In the coming elections, too, if votes are not frittered away, the BJP will be defeated. That is why Prakash Karat’s dogmatic position is not just foolish; it is suicidal.