By Saarthak Anand
Elections to occupy the ten Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh are scheduled for August 8, 2017. All eyes are set on Gujarat as the state has four high-profile contenders competing for three seats. West Bengal is expecting all six candidates to be elected without opposition. Five of West Bengal’s candidates are from Trinamool Congress, and one of them is from the Indian National Congress. The Communist Party of India surprised the public with the cancellation of its candidate’s nomination. Bikash Bhattacharya’s nomination got canceled due to his failure of submitting all required documents on time. The party responded by stating the issue as ‘a big controversy.’ However, it is unlikely that Bhattacharya would have achieved the numbers to get elected even with a successful nomination.
The era of a declining empire
The Left front of India, including the Communist Party of India and other parties, is today a shadow of what it used to be. Its Lok Sabha members have plummeted from sixty-one in 2004 to ten right now. The parties have been losing their political spaces to the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. For a country tainted with rampant poverty and social inequality, it is quite surprising that the Left has been losing its political territories over the years.
The Left has always been committed to its ideology of fighting against class oppression. However, the rising economic growth, employment opportunities, and private investments have gradually changed the political narrative. The deep social fissures in India have diluted class divisions. To this day, widespread electoral mobilisation still takes place on the basis of caste affiliations. The burgeoning religious polarisation has been hurting the Left parties. This was evident in the West Bengal communal violence where the BJP and the TMC dictated the entire discourse.
Inspiring figures; oblivious policies
Some characteristics of the Left work towards their advantage. The CPM earned acclaim in June as it suspended its Member of Parliament, Ritabrata Banerjee for his lavish lifestyle. In fact, leaders of the Left are well-known for their modest lives. One of the leaders is Manik Sarkar, Chief Minister of Tripura since 1998. In an era of increasing fury with corruption, such examples should serve to strike a chord with the public. Nevertheless they are not enough.
The downfall of the left was brought into focus during the 2016 elections when the left parties competed against Congress in Kerala. Although the Bengal alliance snatched Kerala from Congress, CPM ended up getting fewer seats than Congress. The Left front has been losing its power since it severed ties with the UPA government in 2008 over the US-India Nuclear Deal. Not only is its political agenda stale, but the parties also seem to be oblivious to the changing world. Mere cries against imperialism and capitalism no longer suffice.
An ideology alone not enough
The Left has been caught in a time warp. It’s politics remain far-fetched from today’s popular narrative. It needs to catch up as negative politics no longer finds resonance these days. Instead of being overly confrontational with the central government, it needs to offer viable answers to issues such as unemployment, agrarian distress, etc. The Left parties must recruit fresh faces and delve into pertinent issues that concern the people. Developments in Greece, Spain, England and the United States have demonstrated that the Left can still shine. The septuagenarian, Bernie Sanders, found astonishingly massive support from the youth in the United States, standing as inspiration for the socialists in India. Perhaps, it is time for the Left to turn the page and start afresh.
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