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

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A Symbol and the Reading of a Mandate

CPI(M) and Election Results 2016

A Symbol and the Reading of a Mandate

The assembly elections held in 2016 were crucial to the left parties, as they were at the nadir of their political career in India. Yet, the response of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to the election verdicts represents a lack of realism and disregard not only for the uneasy political circumstances, but alarmingly also for political memory, expectations, and interpretative abilities prevalent in the popular.

The left parties had their political relevance at stake in two of the five states that went to assembly polls in April and May 2016. From the Lok Sabha election of 2009, the left had hardly obtained an electoral victory that boosted their morale.1 During the years of this virtual “exile,” the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or the CPI(M), in particular, was either at the receiving end in a political culture of violence (the so-called lumpenism in West Bengal) or nearly torn apart by internal leadership battles (as in Kerala). Such troubled pasts had failed to force the party to rethink its ideological programmes and electoral tactics.

Yet, after the elections, there were at least two sets of reasons to expect a certain degree of realism to emerge in the way the left would craft their political responses, both to the election mandate and to the idea of democracy. The first reason was the immediate political backdrop of the elections—the struggles of the university students that renewed the debates on caste, nation and democracy; the campaigns against corruption that weakened the ruling parties in Kerala and West Bengal; and so on. The second reason was the verdict of the elections that once again humbled the left. The defeat in West Bengal was enough to ruin the glitter of the victory in Kerala.

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