Left-Right, end in sight?

Contemporary history is a witness to the fragility of extremist ideologies. Democratic exercises or "coloured" revolutions have blown away ideologies that set out to reshape societies and human behaviour. We saw the collapse of Soviet Union and many rightwing states that dictatorially endeavoured to jump stages of societal development by curbing human rights and free expression. Surely, not in the same historic proportions, but the 2009 Parliament elections is a watershed event in the sense that it struck a body blow to two political constructs that in a fractured political environment of the last two decades were seemingly poised to carve larger space in Indian polity.

First was the electoral devaluation of the religion-based rightwing political party, BJP, which lost the mandate in 2004 and failed to revive its fortunes in the recent polls. BJP was hoping that by projecting itself as a party that can take tough decisions against terror, it could once again socially engineer the Hindus and come to power. The party's attempt to sell hardline Hindutva, alienate the minorities and glorify xenophobic leaders failed to help them win electoral dividends. BJP's loss, as an article in Hardnews reveals, shows the clear estrangement of RSS with the front party chasing political power. From this standpoint, the 2009 elections have serious implications for a party that sought to build a one nation, one religion, 'cultural nationalism' which seemed to be pumped up on the steroids of half-baked myths, misconceptions, self-deceptions and misplaced triumphs. As the results show, most of the electorate, rural and urban, including the young, refused to buy this - in bad taste, balderdash.

However, the bigger loss is that of the Left. Before 2009, the Left parties gave an impression that they would be the key players who would fill the gap for the secular parties in their attempt to form a government. To buttress their position, the CPM leadership cobbled a rag-tag alliance of regional parties to deny the Congress and BJP their chance at the Centre. There was much arm twisting and blackmail built into this enterprise, botched up from the beginning, but it was explained away as a secular ideological counterpoint to Congress/BJP politics. How J. Jayalalitha, Mayawati and Chandrababu Naidu, who all aligned with the BJP in the past, especially hobnobbing with Narendra Modi, could suddenly become secular allies of the Left - was a stunning misnomer. This was not accepted by the electorate.

The Left and their allies got a serious drubbing. The lesson is clear - if an ideology fails to provide well-being and justice to its people, starts backing big business, betrays its own ideals, and if the party and regime becomes arrogant and authoritarian,  then the people have no option but to look for other democratic options. That's what happened to the CPM-led Left Front in West Bengal.

The CPM's problems arose when it decided to support the Congress-led government and UPA in 2004 to keep the "communal BJP" at bay. They refused to join the government to maintain their ideological purity, but in the process failed to countenance contradictions that could come up in their endeavour to forge an industrial policy in Bengal. Unbridled attempts to attract capital from foreign and Indian companies compelled them to follow the same repressive land acquisition policies that they opposed in the past and in other states. The brutality that the CPM cadres and police showcased in Nandigram and Singur de-legitimised them in public eye all over the nation and knocked them off their moral high horse. The scam in Kerala, too, revealed their feet of clay and lack of will to tackle inner party corruption scandals.

So is it really a rejection of fascist communalism? And is it also end of the road for the Left? Or Left politics and philosophy? If so, what is the alternative search for the Indian polity in this phase of transition with new hopes and aspirations peaking, especially among those denied the fruits of democracy for 60 years plus?

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JULY 2009