You are here: Home » Politics » News » National
Business Standard

The Left: Adept at painting slogans but failed to read writing on the wall

For a party so adept at painting slogans, its failure to read the writing on the wall has cost it dearly

Monobina Gupta | The Wire 

The Left: Adept at painting slogans but failed to read writing on the wall

It’s not that the (Marxist) is suddenly facing an existential crisis. The writing on the wall has been clear for some time. The CPI(M)’s defeat in Tripura after helming the state for more than two decades comes seven years after it lost West Bengal to the Trinamool in 2011. The humiliating defeat the Left suffered in a state it had uninterruptedly ruled for 34 years – and which was the primary state providing the Left its clout in – should have driven the party to look inwards; to dissect its policies, refurbish its and rethink electoral strategies.

None of this happened. Instead, the Left continued to speak the same language, bereft of conviction, riddled with old jargon. The failure to reinvent its politics, take responsibility for the forcible land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram, and reach out to new constituencies of support did not augur well for the future of the mainstream Left.

The implications of the Tripura poll outcome go beyond the region. It revives a discussion on how we perceive Left and raises the critical question: How do we understand Left today? Is there a need to think beyond the conventional paradigm of Left parties and

The paralysis of the conventional Left can be broadly perceived within two frameworks. First, its inability to communicate a different language of And second, the failure to deliver basic services and jobs in states the party ruled for more than a decade. By the time the CPI(M) was driven out of power in Bengal, its three basic support constituencies – comprising peasants, Muslims and tribals – had abandoned the party. The continued neglect of education and health in the Left-ruled states is truly cause for concern. There is no ‘CPI(M) model of governance’ even though the party ruled Bengal for 34 years and Tripura for 25 years.

Perhaps it’s time that we broadened our definition of Left politics, rather than limit it to mainstream parties like the CPI(M). After all, there is no denying that while the CPI(M) has remained stuck in its old political groove, a range of unconventional, new Left leaders have appeared on the scene since 2011.

In fact, in Bengal, Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee today claims to be the “real Left”. From her humble lodgings to her stance against unbridled land acquisition and her direct appeal to the poorest of the poor, she has stepped into the space vacated by the CPI(M). Seven years after first losing to her, the CPI(M) shows no signs of reclaiming its of opposition. Strangely, a party which was born out of radical opposition struggles now seems unable to play the role of opposition.

On the other hand, the India Against Corruption movement transformed into the Aam Aadmi Party (APP), which practices a populist form of that decidedly can be described as Left-of-Centre. There are also other emerging Left leaders like Gujarat’s newly-elected legislator Jignesh Mevani and Chandrashekhar Azad of the Bhim Army. Whether it is AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal or Mevani, they talk a language that is distinct from the traditional Left language. Where the CPI(M) has never tied its to education and health, Mevani has made it clear that these are important pivots of his political campaign. Besides them, there are student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Richa Singh, who come from what may be considered the traditional Left or its variant, but have managed to break new ground.

Besides, most of these new Left leaders are ‘outsiders’ to the system. They may have links to social or political movements but they did not emerge from the institution of political parties. Understanding why ordinary voters – the youth in particular – establish a rapport with the ‘outsider politicians’ is not difficult. We are going through times when cynicism with the established political class is rising and voters are looking for alternative and leaders with a difference.

The decimation of conventional Left seems to go hand in hand with the emergence of this alternative Left and politicians. I may argue that we have begun to hear today the articulation of a new Left language. We are witnessing the rise of a new breed of politicians – who are reaching out to the marginalised sections.

On the other hand, the India Against Corruption movement transformed into the Aam Aadmi Party (APP), which practices a populist form of that decidedly can be described as Left-of-Centre. There are also other emerging Left leaders like Gujarat’s newly-elected legislator Jignesh Mevani and Chandrashekhar Azad of the Bhim Army. Whether it is AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal or Mevani, they talk a language that is distinct from the traditional Left language. Where the CPI(M) has never tied its to education and health, Mevani has made it clear that these are important pivots of his political campaign. Besides them, there are student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Richa Singh, who come from what may be considered the traditional Left or its variant, but have managed to break new ground.

Besides, most of these new Left leaders are ‘outsiders’ to the system. They may have links to social or political movements but they did not emerge from the institution of political parties. Understanding why ordinary voters – the youth in particular – establish a rapport with the ‘outsider politicians’ is not difficult. We are going through times when cynicism with the established political class is rising and voters are looking for alternative and leaders with a difference.

The decimation of conventional Left seems to go hand in hand with the emergence of this alternative Left and politicians. I may argue that we have begun to hear today the articulation of a new Left language. We are witnessing the rise of a new breed of politicians – who are reaching out to the marginalised sections.


Special arrangement with The Wire

First Published: Sun, March 04 2018. 12:06 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU