ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fall of the Left

What explains the fall of the parliamentary left and what sort of politics can revive it?

If one goes by the 16th Lok Sabha election results, except for Kerala and Tripura, the parliamentary left seems to have been relegated to irrelevance in the rest of the country. In the new Lok Sabha, the Communist Party of India (CPI) has just one Member of Parliament, from Kerala, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI–M) has nine, five of them from Kerala and two from Tripura. The decline of both the CPI’s and the CPI(M)’s vote share at the national level has been precipitous – the CPI’s from 1.4% in 2009 to 0.8% in 2014, and the CPI(M)’s from 5.3% in 2009 to 3.2% in 2014. But what of West Bengal, once a stronghold of the parliamentary left?

Indeed, West Bengal was once a bastion of the left, even eight years ago. The warning bells chimed in 2009, but the state leadership of the CPI(M) ignored those signs. The older generation of party leaders, those who had been through the grind in the trade union and peasant struggles of the past, had by then retired or passed away. This was a new generation of leaders that had by-and-large come on the scene after 1977; it knew less, much less at first hand, of the exploitation, oppression and domination by the ruling classes and the state. Indeed, it did not even seem to have learned much from its failures in Singur and Nandigram – thought it could do what it wanted in Lalgarh too, by fiat.

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