Two States — on CPI (M)'s draft resolution

By adopting a draft resolution against any electoral alliance or understanding with the Congress, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) privileged a long-term political/ideological view over compelling short-term electoral calculations. The CC voted 55-31 for the resolution, backed by former general secretary Prakash Karat but opposed by current general secretary Sitaram Yechury. Those opposed to the resolution and in favour of an understanding with the Congress may well believe that there is no success in the long term without survival in the short term. In West Bengal, they would argue, the CPI(M) needs the Congress more than the Congress needs the CPI(M). However, despite the resolution finding Mr. Karat and Mr. Yechury on opposite sides, this was essentially a difference over tactics. It was not so much the result of any ideological confusion about goals as it was of practical differences on how to achieve them. Crucial to the differences over the tactical line are the political complexities in two States where the CPI(M) is strong, Kerala and West Bengal. As the Congress remains the CPI(M)’s principal rival in Kerala, the State unit is opposed to any understanding with it in an environment where the BJP is not a contender. In Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress is the main rival and where the BJP is gathering strength through communal mobilisation, the CPI(M) unit views the Congress less as a foe. In the 2016 Assembly election, large sections of the Bengal unit successfully pushed for an alliance with the Congress. Although the CPI(M) fared worse then than in 2011, it is difficult to determine whether the alliance won the Left Front more seats than it might otherwise have got.

Those supporting a broad-based understanding with the Congress will hope that the decision is reversed at the Party Congress, a body with a larger and more diverse composition. But such an outcome could actually sharpen divisions within the CPI(M), given the overwhelming support the draft resolution received in both the CC and the Polit Bureau. The West Bengal election is a whole three years away and there will be opportunities for the party to review political tactics in accordance with the political situation, in the event it chooses to. There has been a lot said about what the CPI(M)’s decision means for opposition unity in the 2019 general election, but the fact is that Kerala can be won only by a Congress-led or a CPI(M)-led front and it is not clear what impact a Congress-CPI(M) electoral understanding will have in West Bengal. At the same time, the party is not constrained, post election, by the resolution in engaging with an opposition grouping if the situation so demands.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 8:49:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/two-states/article22492230.ece

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