After poll walloping in Kerala, Left Front stares at oblivion

From about 70 members of in the 15th Lok Sabha, the Left parties are likely to end up with a mere five seats in the 17th Lok Sabha.

From being kingmakers who could threaten the existence of a Union government, the Left parties are a pale shadow of their former self.

In the first Parliament it was the left parties which were the primary opposition to a then dominant Congress. Left always had punched much above its weight in Indian polity because of a number of factors including its historical dominance of academia, media and other influence forming sections of the society.

Left parties this time had pinned much hope on their last bastion Kerala to check their ever-depleting numbers in Parliament. But results from the state have been shocking for them. Kerala seems to have gone the West Bengal way as the party won just one seat out of 20, that too in a state where it rules.

Only by the serendepity of having aligned with the DMK led UPA alliance, both CPI and CPI(M) have managed to win two seats each in Tamil Nadu. While CPI has won the Nagapattinam and Thiruppur seats, the CPI(M) has won from Coimbatore and Madurai.

The near rout in Kerala shows that the red star is slowly fading . With its poor show in Kerala and West Bengal the CPI(M) and junior partner CPI are likely to lose their national party status.

When West Bengal was going to polls the Chief Minister of only left-ruled state Pinarayi Vijayan was in London Stock Exchange ringing the bell for masala bonds – once anathema for the Communists who would criticize market instruments. However, the state government defended it saying it was a new beginning aimed at attracting funds to the state which witnessed devastating floods last year. Though it shifted gear from its steadfast ideological stance it seems Indian left has a long way to go and reinvent itself to be back in the electoral reckoning.

Also read: Lok Sabha election results | ‘Defeat was unexpected’: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan

“It is still caught in mundane rhetoric and it has nothing new to offer. It has to negotiate with complex realities of India rather than blindly following its erstwhile comrades. It got many opportunities but it failed to grab them,” says C P John, a former left ideologue and political analyst adding that the decay of Left parties had been visible for quite some time now. He said unlike West Bengal, the Left in Kerala will remain for some time thanks to its soft power – service organizations and institutions built by it.

“Left is an international phenomenon and right wing is surging ahead in all parts of the world. Though it has some critical mass in Kerala its followers are mostly religion-dependent. No doubt Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s adamant posture on Sabarimala antagonized a large number of party followers,” he said. Communists are known atheists and the way it meddled in a religious issue (Sabarimala) was the last nail in the coffin of the party, party insiders concede after the rout.

“It is down but not out in Kerala. The CPI(M) had introduced many correctional measures in Coimbatore party congress and most of them remain only on papers. The party leadership will have to intervene effectively to check violent posture of its cadres,” said senior political analyst N K Ravindran adding recent twin murder of Youth Congress activists in Kasargode dented the party prospects badly in north Kerala. Though CPM had distanced itself from the incident, all those arrested were office-bearers of the party.

“Left ideology is more relevant these days. On campus and work force, Left is still a force to reckon with. But these are not getting translated into votes. Leaders will have to do a real soul searching to revive it in the country. For this leaders will have to be role models not careerists. Like any other party parliamentary ambition has gripped the party,” said a senior party functionary who did not want to be identified.

However, going by Thursday’s results and the fact that it may not even be able to get continued recognition as a national parties, the main Left parties CPM and CPI definitely need to introspect.

First Published:
May 23, 2019 20:56 IST

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