New Delhi, Apr 14: The 2019 battle cry will definitely put to test the political relevance of Indian communists as they face three formidable challengers in their traditional bastions of West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. So much has been their story of 'marginalisation' in West Bengal – that once ‘Lal Durg’ their 'red forte' – is today better known as a state where the fight is essentially drawn between Trinamool Congress and the BJP.
In fact, a few media surveys have already predicted that Left Front’s vote share would nosedive to such a level that out of 42 seats in the state, they may end up losing all.
“They have been wiped out in Tripura, the communists may not win single seat in West Bengal and the remaining prestige will be lost out in Kerala as Rahul Gandhi has taken the flight to Wayanad,” says BJP leader Dilip Ghosh. In tiny state of Tripura, the Leftists were ‘ousted’ in 2018 and thus by all calculations, the BJP is set to wrest both the parliamentary seats – one of them being ST reserved. But the ‘shocker’ for communists came in Kerala and that from a 'friend' Congress president Rahul Gandhi – whose decision to contest from Wayanad constituency is seen as the last nail in the coffin for the Left parties.It is not without good reason that the CPI-M leaders feel ‘ditched’ by sheer display of ‘opportunism’ by the Congress.
"It is none of our business. But some communists think to an extent Sonia Gandhi-Rahul duo has been ungrateful as it were the communists that played the role of an anchor in ensuring a Congress-led UPA dispensation in 2004,” a BJP source said here.
A section of BJP leaders say Mr Gandhi’s move also reflects ‘internal bickering’ in the Congress especially in its Kerala unit and it also talks about the ‘intensity’ of the cold war between Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury factions in the CPI-M. Electorally, best performance by the Left parties came in 2004 when they had 59 members in Lok Sabha and their ‘comrade’ Somnath Chatterjee became Speaker in the House of the people. It was the Left Front that actually helped anchor UPA-I and so much has been the communists’ say in the running of a dispensation run by 'pro-liberalisation economist' Dr Manmohan Singh that an effective Left-UPA Coordination panel was formally set up.
But the heydays were short lived as Prakash Karat – the hardliner CPI(M) general secretary was adamant about the Indo-US Nuke Deal. In 2008, the anguished Left parties withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh government. The relationship could not have gone so bad at any worse time. Thanks to Nandigram and Singur, the Left Front government headed by Basudeb Bhattacharya was at all low in popularity graph. The Congress easily walked into the arms of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and thus the communists rule came to an end in their own bastion in 2011.
The bitterness of defeat turned worse as in Kerala too that year, the CPI-M was ‘ousted’. In Kerala, CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front lost to Congress-led UDF in a neck-and-neck fought assembly elections. In West Bengal, CPI(M) alliance with 62 seats suffered a setback after 34 years of continuous rule, losing to Congress and Trinamool Congress alliance's 226 seats. The then Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also lost from his Jadavpur assembly constituency.
In retrospective, the Left-Congress confrontation was reflected in 1991 Lok Sabha elections as well. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination as Congress benefited by the ‘sympathy wave’, the CPI-M later said it was the ‘worst victim’ of the sympathy wave as its vote share dropped from 11.24 per cent to 3.66. The CPI-M even had accused Congress of ‘unleashing naked terror’ to exploit the assassination of narrow electoral gains in Kerala, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. CPI-M tally in 1991 was 35.
In 2019 in Wayanad, Mr Gandhi is actually face to face in confrontation with the CPI, which had already announced its candidature before the announcement of Congress president. In terms of numbers, the CPI’s best show was in 1962 when securing 9.9 percent vote, it had won 29 seats.
But, according to old data, it was the irreplaceable ‘Jyoti Basu charishma’ that had ensured a victory for the CPI-M and its allies in West Bengal in 1991 - “making it the only communist bastion to remain intact”. So much has been the magic of Jyoti Basu's power and people’s faith in his polity that even after Rajiv’s assassination, Congress stalwart ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury from Malda had to contend with ‘reduced margin’ of victory. For the Left, first signs of debacle in recent past came in 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The CPI(M) contested 32 seats, CPI - 3 seats, All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) - 3 and RSP 4; while Trinamool made big gains, the CPI(M) won 9 seats from West Bengal, CPI, AIFB and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) two seats each.
From Kerala, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) strength was four. In 2014, the CPI-M strength was nine and one RSP. As one sits back and looks at the manner the BJP has grown phenomenally in erstwhile Left bastion West Bengal, it ought to be understood that the pro-saffron party undercurrent was certainly in action in the districts of Nadia, Murshidabad and West Dinajour way back in 1991. This was largely due to the wooing of ‘Hindu refugees’ during partition and perhaps also in 1971. The saffron party’s vote share had shot up from near negligible 1.67 per cent to 11.66 per cent that year. (UNI )