As parties begin preparations for the next general elections, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) finds itself in a dilemma with no party outside the Left fold responding to its call for forging an alternative platform on economic issues. Ironically, the only party that advocates a similar economic agenda is the Trinamool Congress that has decimated the Left Front in West Bengal in three successive polls over the past four years.

Party leaders admitted that the stand taken by the Trinamool in Parliament on the Land Acquisition Bill and the Pension Bill posed a problem as “Mamata takes the Left line”; making it difficult for the policy-oriented CPI(M) to oppose her. In fact, the Trinamool went a step further than the CPI(M) on the Land Acquisition Bill by forcing a vote on an amendment for cent per cent consent of land owners in acquisitions for private projects.

Eight months ahead of the elections, the CPI(M) is not hopeful of stitching up a pre-poll electoral arrangement as most parties that it can do business are more inclined towards a post-poll realignment. Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh said so openly in Agra on Thursday and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) has already conveyed this to the Left party. More significantly, most of the “secular”’ parties are gravitating towards the Congress.

The two main parties of Uttar Pradesh — the S.P. and the Bahujan Samaj Party —- are offering outside support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. Likewise, the Bihar-based Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party broadly offer outside support to the Congress in Parliament. And, of late, JD (U) is veering towards the Congress.

As the CPI(M) sees it, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would like an arrangement with the Congress; primarily because his own chances at the hustings look bleak after the JD(U)’s break-up with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Adding to his woes are the brightening prospects of the RJD.

“Nitish will go with whoever can help him more to counter Lalu and fight the BJP as the latter has consolidated its base in Bihar during the years in government. The upper caste vote will go with the BJP. And, if the Congress and Lalu unite, the minorities could go their way. So Nitish wants to keep the Congress in good humour to keep the minorities with him.”

Down South, the CPI(M) like all parties does not want to hazard a guess on Andhra politics; given the mess it is in over the Telangana issue. In Karnataka, the Janata Dal (Secular) is being pulled in two directions with son H. D. Kumaraswamy in truck with the BJP even as father H. D. Devegowda claims to be secular. In fact, at a recent press conference, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said he had asked Mr. Gowda to remove the word `Secular’ from the party’s name in view of the JD(S)-BJP understanding in the recent by-elections in Karnataka.

The only party that some CPI(M) leaders are hopeful of bringing over to its side is the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, though they cannot quite explain the contradiction in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s pro-Narendra Modi position.

Such being the evolving scenario, the CPI(M) — while maintaining that it is early days yet — seems to have decided to adopt a wait and watch policy after burning its fingers badly in the 2009 elections when the party pro-actively tried to forge a third political alternative. That it was a mistake to project a third alternative for governance in 2009 was acknowledged by the party within weeks of the Parliament election debacle.

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