The Left has been declining in electoral significance in State
May Day was celebrated this year with elections just four days away, even as the Left parties in Karnataka are hoping to regain some electoral ground in what has proved to be a tough terrain for them over the last two decades. The Left parties have together fielded candidates in 30 constituencies and are pinning their hopes on the Bagepalli seat which they have held twice before.
Though the Left has been gradually pushed into electoral insignificance in the State since the late 80s, the first 30 years of electioneering had them playing a fairly significant role.
Hard as it may be to believe given the nature of today’s politics, Malleswaram and Rajajinagar seats in Bangalore were won at one time by Left candidates with a thumping majority.
The best performance of the Left was in 1983 when the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist) won six seats. That was the year charismatic labour leader M.S. Krishnan polled 54,567 votes, the highest that election. He not only retained the Rajajinagar seat in the next election, but won twice from the adjoining Malleswaram constituency. Labour leaders like Pampapathy, K.B. Shanappa (who joined BJP in 2004), V.N. Patil and T.S. Mani have had successive wins in Karnataka.
Even a district like Dakshina Kannada, now a stronghold of Hindutva forces, once had a fairly strong shade of red. An interesting case study is Ullal, where undivided CPI won this seat in 1962 and CPI(M) in 1983. The Left was a significant player in politics till late eighties.
Besides Communist parties, even progressive and Left of the centre formations in Karnataka have had their presence on the electoral scene. The Praja Socialist Party had a presence in many parts, from the coast to central Karnataka, until it ceased to exist in 1972. It had won 20 seats each in 1962 and 1967.
Rise of the right
A look at the electoral history of Karnataka shows that marginalisation of Left and progressive formations in the electoral scene has happened almost simultaneously with the rise of the Right, markedly after the 1989 elections. The vote share of BJP was 4.14 per cent in 1989 and rose to 33.86 per cent in 2008. On the other hand, the combined vote share of the Left parties has never crossed 1 per cent since 1989.