Hope for Party, Challenge for Yechury
There has always been scope for left of the centre voice in Indian democracy. In the early decades after independence, high-handedness of zamindars and plight of landless farm labourers made communist ideology relevant. The exploitation of industrial workers became another rallying point for communists and they flourished in many parts of the country. But communist parties became overbearing, making people disenchanted with them. West Bengal showcases the collapse of Left parties, especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist), because of their arrogance.
However, the Left movement and the parties representing a progressive ideology have gained significance in a different context now. The emergence of fundamentalist religious groups and strengthening of communal, right-wing parties call for an ideologically strong opposition. The CPI (M) can play a crucial role in this regard. But, it is possible only if it comes out of its ideological stubbornness. This is where it failed under the leadership of Prakash Karat, the previous party chief. The election of Sitaram Yechury as the new general secretary sends out the message that the party is willing to come out of its state of paralysis. Though Mr. Karat and Mr. Yechury belong to the same generation and have common academic background — both are from the Jawaharal Nehru University stable — they represent different strands of thought.
If a hardcore communist country like Cuba can come out of its ‘anti-imperialist’ stand and Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro could shake hands, marking the first meeting between a U.S. and Cuban head of State since the two countries severed their ties in 1961, it will be unwise and irrational for the CPI (M) to stick to its obstinate views. Individuals and parties have to change with changing times, keeping the core ideology intact. Or else they will lose their credibility. There are no permanent enemies in politics; it is equally true in a globalised and liberalised economy. Karat could not realise it. So he kept on chanting anti-Congress slogan domestically and anti-American utterances on global issues though both have lost the steam.
At a time when the nation is faced with the biggest challenge of post-independence era posed by Hindutva forces, the CPI (M) should shun its negativism and cooperate with secular forces in the Opposition to take on communal elements. It has to take a fresh look at its performance and tweak some of its policies to suit the situation. Worn-out and tired idioms should be replaced with practical ideas relevant to the times. The party should realise that communism across the world — India is no exception — is in terminal decline. At this juncture there is no scope for the existence of various splinter groups of communist ideology. They should come together and form one party to make them relevant. A combined Left should join hands with other secular forces to take on the divisive communal elements. This is the greatest challenge Mr. Yechury faces in his new role.