Cautioning supporters against the “growing influence of identity politics in India,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said here on Tuesday that the Left must meet the challenge.

Ahead of the elections to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Mr. Karat pointed out that 20 years ago the phenomenon of “Other Backward Classes (OBC) mobilisation” had been witnessed there, but had now fragmented into a dozen different groups.

“When I used to go to U.P. 20 years ago there used to be what is generally called the Other Backward Classes (OBC) mobilisation. Today that does not exist. That OBC has been broken up into another dozen sub-castes and a dozen political parties have sprung up, representing each caste or sub-caste,” he said.

Mr. Karat said that this brand of politics, which is dividing people along the lines of caste, community, religion or ethnic identities, is an instrument to fight the Left movement in India as it was being used to break up the class-based movements, to divide the class solidarity of people who face common forms of exploitation.

“To fall into the trap of believing that identity politics is a movement of only the oppressed sections, small minority groups and oppressed people and, therefore, is a progressive phenomenon, and it would be falling into the very trap set by imperialism and the ruling classes. We have to patiently counter identity politics,” he said. “Identity politics can only be effectively countered when we take up those genuine issues of oppression that is faced by those sections,' he added.

Speaking on the “Challenges of the times and the task before the Left” at a seminar organised during the North 24 Parganas district conference of the CPI(M), Mr. Karat outlined the problems being faced by the country.

Criticising the neo-liberal policies being promoted by the Centre, Mr. Karat said they had led to new kinds of exploitation of the working classes and peasants. He emphasised the need to organise workers in the unorganised sector in order “to build a powerful worker-peasant alliance.”

He also warned about the growing influence of imperialist forces on India's foreign policy, which in turn is also affecting our domestic policies.

Citing the example of the introduction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the retail sector, Mr. Karat said that the Left had managed to stall the move that would affect the livelihood of lakhs of people, but the UPA government was determined to go ahead with the decision.

“Again they [the UPA government] have said, once the Assembly elections are over, we will implement it. Everyone else is opposed to it; the people in this country are opposed to it, but why do they want to bring it? Because the United States of America has said that you have to do it,” he said.

The Left will have to mobilise the people on a large scale against this pro-imperialist foreign policy, which will also have a direct impact on the domestic policies and livelihood of the people.