As the 2014 Parliamentary election is approaching, one political party in India is standing on the brink of elimination both as a National party and in terms of its influence on the Indian electorate. It is the Communist Party of India, almost a century old, which championed the cause of the poor and the downtrodden and was led by some notable leaders such as M.N. Roy, Abaninath Mukherjee, E.M.S. Nampoothiripad, A.K. Gopalan, N.E. Balaram, Inderjit Gupta and S.A. Dange.
It was born at a time when India was under the British Colonialist rule and the people of India started rising up against its imperialist policies. The movement was also greatly inspired by the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917 and the so-called victory of the working class under the leadership of Lenin. A great many young people of India at that time wanted to utilize the Marxist ideals for the liberation of India.
Ideological differences rather than any disagreement during the Sino-Indian war lead to the split in the party in 1964. The division was between the Leftists vs. Rightists within the party and the alliance between CPI and Congress Party resulted in a coalition ministry in Kerala in 1970 under the leadership of C. Achutha Menon which proves that point.
In a country where there was abject poverty and a feudalistic mindset by the upper class and caste domination, one wonders why the Communist Party has failed in making headway with their message across India for better success! The party was very much limited to a few States: Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura.
Now, however, the comrades are on a fast track to oblivion. Their real decline began when they broke away from UPA-led Government on the Indo-US Civil Nuclear deal. The Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen clearly warned that ‘the rupture would make the communists lose their voice’. However, an arrogant Prakash Karat, the General Secretary, embarked on a ruinous plan that even witnessed the ousting of an elder statesman like Somanath Chatterjee, former Loka Sabha speaker, from the party.Had the Communists stayed with UPA and took up various Cabinet positions; it would not only have strengthened the coalition but also would have immensely helped those States from which the Communists were elected. However, this party couldn’t think or shoot straight when it came to employing the political tactics that were critical to keep them relevant.
Any independent observer would agree that the Communists have indeed contributed to a more egalitarian mindset of the populace in Kerala through some of the hard fought political and social reform measures. When one talks about education, land reforms, primary health care, family planning, rationing food items through state sponsored stores to help the poor and needy, women’s empowerment etc. within the State, the Communists have played a leading role to affect the change.
However, somewhere down the lane in a fast changing world, communists began losing their way. The breakup of the Soviet Union, China’s quest towards market economy and the repudiation of the Marxist doctrines across Eastern Europe; all these began to have a debilitating impact on the century old ideological structure of the party. When their wave of social reforms ran its course, they lacked fresh ideas such as private capital to sustain and enhance growth to improve the lives of the peasants and ordinary folks.
When the Communists lost by a large margin to the Thrinamool Congress in the 2009 election, Biman Basu state chief of the party told the press ‘it was totally unexpected’. How did a party that ruled the states for 34 years and prided itself in knowing the pulse of the people be caught off guard? Are the Communists out of touch with the people? They eventually conceded that they could not assess the stirrings of the people for a change. What a sad spectacle!
An expert explained their decline in the following way: ‘with the growing influence of the market forces in the economy and increased competition between states that are vying for private capital, the communists found it hard to match its anti-corporate and anti-globalization rhetoric with practice of competitive federalism’.
The decline of the Communists clearly indicates that the party is unravelling and the politics in Bengal and Kerala are entering a new phase. In Kerala the people have rejected their ‘quotation murder’ politics and mayhem. Whatever the pundits would say, the T.P. Chandrasekhar murder case was a water shed event that has exposed the inner working of a structure that provided a license to kill if the cadre failed to toe the line.
Although the old stalwarts of the party were committed ideologues, the current crop of the leadership at the state levels are corrupt and uninspiring. In Kerala, they have shown their true colors by putting roadblocks on development programs that would have uplifted the common man. One of the prominent religious leaders once confided the following: ‘when the Communists were in power, I requested for a permit to open an English Medium school for the HIV infected Children. The reply from the Government talked about a Malayalam medium school’. For a Keralite, obtaining a Passport is considered a stepping stone to success and knowledge of English is a pre-requisite for any good overseas opportunity. Therefore, the intent of the party is quite clear in this regard; they would like to keep a segment of the population down from any further development so as to keep them as a ‘vote bank’.
As Chairman of the Kerala Information Technology Alliance (KITA), a network of IT Professionals from Kerala in U.S., I had approached the Minister of Education with the
previous Communist-led Ministryin Kerala to sign an agreement with IBM to allow the ‘Center of Excellence Program’ in our colleges and Universities. I strongly felt that students in Kerala lacked sufficient communication skills to match those who were brought up in an urban environment. They therefore required additional skills or certification to advance their careers. However, the Minister was reluctant to deal with IBM, a company from an ‘imperialist super power’! It is quite hypocritical that many of the leaders routinely send their children to study abroad while denying the same educational opportunity to everyone else! It is no wonder that during their years in power, not a single multi-national technology company from abroad established an office in Kerala, a state that prides itself with the highest literacy rate in the nation.
Therefore, the defeat of the Communist party of India in Bengal and Kerala, their showcase states shows that they have lapsed into irrelevance and will meet the fate of many other parties (Swathantra Party, Praja Socialist Party etc.), who have either disappeared from the scene or become irrelevant. Four decades of Communist party rule has left West Bengal, a State which was third in Industrial output when India gained its independence in near ruins. It is estimated that around 4 lakh Bengalis have migrated to Kerala as laborers, a very sad state of affairs for a people with a great history and promising potentials.
Against this backdrop that the CPI-M has made its move to revive the Third front but their move is unlikely to amount to much because of its weak position in the Parliament with just 16 seats. In addition, they have lost power in Kerala and West Bengal, which were considered its strongholds. Therefore, the future of the Communist Party in India looks bleak unless they recalibrate their strategies with a sense of urgency. Yes, they could even take a few lessons from their patrons in China on the new global realities!
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