Is The Indecision Surrounding Alliances About An Internal Stir Within The CPM?
Though the Party is in one voice on the question of the urgency of defeating the BJP as a primary goal, they differ in their paths.
Much ado about nothing. A Shakespearean dilemma. It is what crossed my mind when I read a statement of Kodieri Balakrishnan and Prakash Karat’s editorial in central party organ People’s Democracy wherein effect both state: “The UP bye election provided an important lessons for the future in terms of election tactics to defeat the BJP… If the major non-BJP parties unite, then the small parties and forces can extend support to them”. Interestingly the editorial took shelter under the late Jyoti Basu who called upon the voters of UP in 1993. NDTV reported that Polit Bureau member Balakrishnan, who heads the all powerful Kerala unit, told a public gathering at Kasargod, “in the next Lok Sabha elections, the Left will contest in 100 – 150 seats . In the remaining seats, we will identify the candidate who can defeat BJP. The Left and CPM will vote for such candidates. It would be SP, BSP, regional parties, or even if it is he Congress, we will vote for Congress to defeat BJP.”
Though the Party is in one voice on the question of the urgency of defeating the BJP as a primary goal, they differ in their paths. The key contention is about roping in the Congress in its fight against the BJP. The party felt it convenient and necessary to join hands with the Grand Old Party on the streets while opposing government policies. But, at the same it has reservations about joining hands with Congress electorally, as appears from media reports from September 2016 to the present.
Let us take some picks from the free-for-all commentary in the mainstream English press. The Hindu, reduced the differences in the Polit Bureau to a mere clash between West Bengal and Kerala units in its editorial on October 6 which was in wake of Polit Bureau meeting. The editorial went on say: “ The tactical line at stake is alliance formation, whether or ot the Party should be part of a larger broad-based alliance headed by the Congress at the national level. For Kerala unit, whose principle rival is the Congress-led United Democratic Front, any such alliance is difficult to sell to the cadre.”
Similarly, in an interview to The Sunday Standard on January 28th this year, this is what CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had to say. “Before election time, we will work out appropriate tactics to achieve the objective of ousting this government while not entering into any electoral alliance or front with ruling class parties. The point of dispute is about the tactics we will employ. An electoral alliance (with the Congress) is ruled out by both sides. We may go with the regional parties, and they (regional parties) may be going with the Congress. But our tactics should not come in the way of cooperation to ensure that objective.” He also stated in unambiguous terms, while acknowledging the difference of opinion within the party, “The method we employ is that the majority view prevails in the party and the minority has the right to go to the highest forum, which is the CPM party congress. But once the party decides, that is the party line,” he added, reinforcing the principle of democratic centralism and standard disciplinary approach while sorting out political and tactical differences.
Acknowledging the reports, Prakash Karat, in his capacity as editor of the party organ, riled against the media in its January 28 issue when he said, “Most of them ( media reports) were either ill-informed about the style of functioning of the CPI(M) as a Communist Party, or, they utilised the occasion to draw motivated and distorted conclusions intended to depict the Party leadership in a poor light.” Taking shelter under the Party constitution, Karat said that the resolution adopted by the central committee will go to the Party Congress and in the Congress, the delegates will have a right and freedom to express their opinions on the draft political resolution.
The draft political resolution called for maximization of pooling of anti-BJP votes so that the strategy worked out by the BJP in 2014 – focusing on potentially winnable seats by ensuring pooling of anti-Congress votes – won’t work in 2019. This needs to have greatest coordination and synchronization among the opposition parties from identifying candidates who can be better bets in the specific contexts to their respective constituencies, to controlling disgruntled elements from contesting as rebels, to withholding the candidates from defecting to the ruling camp etc.
All this cannot happen by a mere call for pooling of anti-BJP votes in favor of the winning candidate. Here, Prakash Karat reminds his readers of the call given by Jyoti Basu while campaigning in Uttar Pradesh during the midterm elections in the wake of Babri Masjid demolition. At the time, Basu called for voters to vote irrespective of their political loyalties and affiliations, for a candidate who could defeat the BJP. The leadership during the period could see the dangers of the BJP / RSS combine better than now and hence Karat’s call to voters.
Even for that to happen, it is important to have a scope for such a call. In case if the party’s upcoming congress sticks to the draft political resolution, then, by procedure, CPI(M) can’t even coordinate with Congress in seats where a lone Congress candidate is pitted against the BJP. For that, scope for maneuvering should be kept open. The tactical line of CPI(M) should facilitate such a pooling of anti-BJP votes rather than becoming a hurdle. According to media reports this is what the minority resolution argued for, whereas the majority resolution is stern against giving scope for coordination and cooperation among opposition parties including the Congress. While responding to criticism against the Party’s decision to vote for the Charan Singh government in the trust vote, the Party Central Committee and Polit Bureau made it clear that the tactical line should help the Party to advance towards its final goals or in the worst case, should facilitate at least momentary gain.
In today’s situation, only a tactical line that can defeat the BJP could advance the Party’s goals including momentary gains. The propositions of the draft political resolution also highlights the inadequacy of the tactical line review document that was adopted in the 21st Congress at Vishakapatnam. The reviewed document called for intensification of the movements against neo-liberal economic policy as well as to strive to increase independent strength of the Party, so that it can lead the Left and Democratic Front. The major lacunae is this. Irrespective of whether you are strong or weak, in the Indian scenario of parliamentary democracy, the Party has to face elections where it will be propped up by political conjuncture which of course, would be mostly beyond its control. In such a situation what should be the tactical line that needs to be implemented would be natural question to ask.
There are contingencies that would arise in a constitutional democracy for which any party has to keep itself abreast of. The present discussion on the tactical line that is purportedly going to be adopted at the forthcoming 22nd Congress wants to simply reiterate the short term and long term goals announced in the review document rather than viewing the situation at hand, eye-to-eye. This kind of a hypothetical tactical line won’t help the party to advance either its short term goals or long term tasks.
From the above, it is clear that there is not much of a difference between majority and minority resolutions in the light of the above statements and assertions by former general secretary as well as Kerala state secretary, who allegedly stonewalled minority resolution in central committee during its meeting in January. When there is not much change which can be figured out either theoretically or practically, then what could be the reason for a section of Party leadership to attribute motives to the minority resolution and its proponents, which in fact is more or less the same as that of the majority resolution in its tactical orientation? Is there something personal to the speculation surrounding the minority resolution is what the readers have to decide for themselves.