Addressing an extended session of the CPI-M’s West Bengal state committee in Howrah, in the first week of November, the party general secretary, Comrade Sitaram Yechury, declared with his customary flourish, especially effectuated when ineffective and hollow declarations have to be made, that his party has joined hands with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to “save India” and defeat Narendra Modi.
Justifying the headless and tailless I.N.D.I. alliance, comrade Yechury was trying to convince, whatever remained of the party’s rank and file, that the alliance was not opportunistic, rather it had a greater role, deeper symbolism and was put together to “save” and salvage India.
In the past the Indian communists carried most of their destabilising programmes in the name of the people, justifying violent protest, retribution, blockades and acerbic political stances as being perpetuated to benefit “the people”. Today, because of their blind rage against Narendra Modi and in their frothing resolve to unseat him, they have at least begun talking of India, of “saving” India. Indeed, even if momentary or transient, they have graduated a few stages from the past when their domineering slogan was that of China’s Chairman also being their Chairman.
In less than a fortnight after Yechury had justified his party’s alliance with a bourgeois and reactionary party like the TMC, the CPI-M has found itself at the receiving end. The day after Deepavali, a former CPI-M strongman of Joynagar district, in West Bengal, Saifuddin Laskar, who had made his pile and name during the Left regime and had switched allegiance to the TMC, was shot dead while on his way to the local mosque. Saifuddin was known to be calling the shots and pulling the strings in the area and the police kowtowed to him, genuflected and took his orders.
A TMC mob protest following Laskar’s murder, saw scores of CPI-M supporters attacked and their houses and shops burnt, in a rerun of “Bogtui”, where in March 2022, in Birbhum district, TMC’s internecine clashes and murders saw one faction burning alive members and supporters of another faction. It was one of the most gruesome mass killings in West Bengal in recent times.
The TMC blamed the CPI-M for doing away with Laskar, while most were convinced that Laskar was eliminated by a section of his own party who found him to have become too big and powerful. For hours as CPI-M supporters were attacked, their houses burnt and shops looted, the local police looked the other way, while fire tenders were delayed in coming.
This deeper malaise afflicts most parts of West Bengal, with violent factional feuds among ruling party strongmen erupting at regular intervals. But while their houses burnt in Joynagar, the CPI-M leaders kept silent, or made same feeble protest, and comrade Yechury, safely ensconced, in Delhi, seem to have not received an alert on the manner in which his comrades and cadres in West Bengal were being mowed down by those whose hands he holds to “save” India.
Ironically the CPI-M’s public meetings in West Bengal almost always receive permission from the police and administration, unlike for the BJP, the Left parties’ programme venues are never cancelled or refused, their cadres are hardly assaulted or arrested by the police these days. A skeptical section is clearly and perhaps rightly convinced that the CPI-M derives its political oxygen from the TMC in the state. This duplicitous and circuitous political maneuvering has made it lose further steam and credibility. It is unable to save or defend itself when excesses such as Joynagar occur. Its political fortune doesn’t seem to recover or rise any longer in West Bengal and yet its leaders live in a make-belief world of self-relevancy.
This is the stark dilemma of the Left, especially of the CPI-M. Habituated to grandstanding but now increasingly pushed to irrelevance and to a state of political insolvency, the CPI-M and its ideologues and apparatchiks are repeatedly failing to evolve or draw up a plan or roadmap. Not that this failure affects India in any way, in fact, this inability to revive must be seen as a welcome development. It is the gradual depletion of a long disruptive force in Indian politics.
For all its profession of serving the working-class, the CPI-M and its state governments did little for the marginalized and the subaltern. One of its main grouse against the Modi government, which it had dubbed as the big bourgeois representative, is that it has done more than perhaps all governments combined since independence in empowering the maginalised or what communist would term as the “subaltern.” CPI-M’s politics has always been to keep them disempowered so that their political choice can be subdued and controlled.
The latest two flagship outreach aimed to empower the disempowered, that has been initiated under the direct supervision of PM Modi, the PM Viswakarma and the PM Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan with a budget of around Rs 13,000 crore and Rs 24,000 crore, respectively, has galvanised this major section of India. While the Left often politicked in the name of this section it did little to empower and mainstream them. For those who know the history of governance during three odd decades of Left rule in West Bengal would know how devastating it had actually been for the marginalised, especially those from the ST communities.
From once actively siding with the Muslim League in peddling the Pakistan narrative and in enforcing the deadly “hartal” on “Direct Action Day” on 16 August 1946, to applauding China always up until the present when its senior leaders were seen to be hand in gloves with the “Newsclick” cartel set up to disseminate China’s propaganda, to justifying China’s Galwan misadventure, to refusing to condemn Hamas’s terrorism, the Indian communists have increasingly got stuck in a dark oubliette unable to find a way out. The more they profess to be mainstream the more they resemble the fringe.
Comrade Sitaram Yechury should do well thus to give up trying to save India and instead save himself and his beleaguered party and its comrade ideologues.
The author is Chairman, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation & Member, BJP National Executive Committee. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect News18’s views.