Even as the Communist movement appears to have lost its destination following the melting away of the ideology into history, the students’ wing of the CPI, CPM and CPI ML have not given up the habit of taking to the streets at the drop of a hat.
One has no right to question one’s right to protest. But one is tempted to do so when such exercise starts proving counter-productive because of misplaced and mistimed strategy.
The call given by the students’ wing of the Left parties to register protest outside Jamia Millia Islamia on June 3 seeking release of those arrested for taking part in the sit-ins and demonstrations against the Citizens Amendment Act turned out to be a damp squib. As the University is closed and its administration has hardly anything to do with the arrest of the anti-CAA activists the venue of such gathering should be somewhere else–be it Jantar Mantar, Rajghat etc. This is simply because the protest was directed against the government and not against the Jamia administration. Keeping in mind this protest Delhi Police made heavy deployment in the area causing alarm.
Dragging Jamia into this agitation at this point of time is not a very prudent option when the country, especially its capital, is facing the challenge of Corona Virus and subsequent lockdown and related developments.
The demand of release of all the activists may be genuine, yet at the same time one must see to it that even a slight misjudgement of choice of place of sit in, demonstration etc. may give the rivals a chance to fully exploit the situation. Mind it, mountain out of molehill can be made of the incident involving the death of an elephant in Kerala. How Palakkad could become Malappuram just to give a communal touch!
The problem is not with the Socialist leaning activists like Yogendra Yadav or former bureaucrat-turned-human right champions such as Harsh Mandar, Kannan Gopinathan etc but with the Communists, who are finding their bases shrinking almost everywhere in the country, barring Kerala.
As they want to stem the rot they take up any issue involving rights of minorities, especially Muslims. Apparently, there is nothing blasphemous in adopting such a policy, but it should be supplemented by serious introspection of the blunders the Left parties have committed in the past. May be inadvertently, they have contributed to weakening of the secular forces in Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.
They were in power in three states when Communism had collapsed in the then Soviet Union and in all practical purposes become the champion of Capitalism in China. True, in a couple of countries like Mexico and neighbouring Nepal Left-leaning parties were voted back to power a couple of years back. But even in these two countries Communism, as an ideology, is not a big success.
The Indian Communists perhaps failed to read the writing on the wall even as the religious revival movement gathered storm in 1990s.
They were kicked out of office in Bengal after 34 long years in 2011. This was followed by their rout in Tripura. They were not just voted out of power but faced virtual extinction in these two states.
The 2019 Lok Sabha election exposed the real picture. On their own three Communist parties could win just one out of 543 seats and that too only in Kerala. They won four others in alliance with other secular parties in Tamil Nadu.
The tragedy with the Left is that in Bengal they were not in position to even keep their flock together and the entire vote-bank shifted not to the Congress or Trinamool Congress, but to the Bharatiya Janata Party which they consider their number one rival in rest of the country.
How could this happen to a cadre-based party is for the leadership to answer?
But instead of doing the home work the Left parties are more keen to take up the issues which the saffron brigade wants them to champion.
Take another example, and that of the Lok Sabha election in Begusarai in Bihar from where one of their Young Turks, Kanhaiya Kumar was the candidate. The former president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union could never anticipate that he would not even get five per cent of votes in his home village, Bihat, otherwise a big settlement and a strong CPI bastion. Till before the advent of Lalu Prasad in 1990s and subsequent growth of the BJP Begusarai was called the Stalingrad. Last year virtually the entire Left votes shifted to Giriraj Singh of the BJP.
Kanhaiya could get votes of only Muslims and a handful of floating ones. Muslims trusted him notwithstanding the fact that they had in Tanvir Hasan a choice. Hasan of RJD was arguably the best Muslim candidate in Bihar and still enjoys a big clout. Curiously, Hasan ended up getting much larger votes of Yadavs, Dalits and Extremely Backward Castes of Hindus than that of Muslims. The community in the faint hope that Kanhaiya would give a big fight reposed full faith on the CPI candidate.
Their is no scope for an iota of doubt in the integrity and commitment towards secularism of Kanhaiya, or for that matter, his talent. If in the election campaign in 2019 all the Left leaning academics, film personalities, activists etc concentrated their entire energy in Begusarai none of them ever went to Bengal to check the big swing of their votes towards the BJP.
The tragedy for the Left is that their voters did not opt to sit at home or vote for their own candidates, but whole-heartedly exercised their adult franchise in favour of the saffron party. This was done not only out of love for Narendra Modi, but hate for the chief minster Mamata Banerjee.
The Left not only let down the Muslims in Begusarai, but drove the last nail in their own coffin in Bengal where the BJP has emerged as a big force.
The sorry aspect is that the Left leaders are not doing the postmortem of this state of affairs. Instead they are once again harping on the same old line.
For example, Kanhaiya, along with some of his fellow travellers, launched Jan Gana Mana Yatra on Jan 30 from historic Champaran in Bihar which culminated to a big rally in Patna on Feb 27. The primary goal was the opposition of CAA, which many other champions of secularism are also stoutly opposing.
Naturally, he attracted a large number of Muslims in his rallies all over the state, but the entire CPI machinery remained mute spectators.
In Bengal, which is going to polls in 2021 the shift in Left votes towards the BJP may deal a big blow to Mamata Banerjee, but no effort is being made to prevent this from happening.
In Bihar all the Left activism is going to spoil the prospect of the RJD-led Grand Alliance. After all, the Janata Dal United has several senior leaders who had in the past been associated with the Left politics during their student’s days.
Neeraj Kumar, a trusted minister of Nitish Kumar and party’s very vocal spokesman, is one among them. They have no problem in having truck with the BJP because in their opinion RJD and Congress are much bigger enemies.
It is only in Kerala that the Left is keeping the hope alive, but that is simply because the main opposition is the Congress and BJP has no strong base.
The Communists will have to realise, sooner than later, that they have made enormous contribution in paving the way for the success of the BJP. Unless they recover their own base and work for the weaker and downtrodden section of the society they are not going to stage a comeback. The repeated attempt to over-play Muslim related issues would in the long run harm the Left as well as the biggest minorities of India.
(Writer is senior journalist based in Patna. Views are personal)