The Left’s frantic efforts to crawl back from political oblivion are evident in its wooing of regional leaders for an anti-communal front. For all his holier-than-BJP-and-Congress posturings, Prakash Karat is today appearing to be playing the same opportunistic games as his political allies and adversaries. The General Secretary of the CPI(M)’s reluctance to call it a Third Front and instead showcase it as a platform against communal forces is aimed at reaping electoral dividends in a sharply polarised polity. With the 2014 general elections being touted as a mandate for or against Narendra Modi, the CPI(M) and its friends want to market themselves as true champions of the minorities. At the same time, Rahul Gandhi’s scare-mongering to boost his party’s image among Muslims has also contributed to the urgency of the 11 parties, which have responded to the CPI(M)’s call.
A motley crowd with leaders of the JD(U), Samajwadi Party, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, Republican Party of India, and the four Left outfits are expected to participate in the October 30 anti-communal convention in Delhi. The political party conspicuous by its absence is the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee — the bete noire of the CPI(M).
Like all desperate efforts, this hastily cobbled front, too, lacks foresight and an understanding of the ground realities. For starters, critical questions will be raised about the secular credentials of the Samajwadi Party since its rule in UP has been fraught with communal tension and clashes.
Unlike the BSP supremo Mayawati, whose BSP can be lauded for achieving relative peace and harmony in the state, the Akhilesh Yadav-led government’s track record in the last 19 months has attracted criticism from all quarters.
Long before the deadly Muzaffarnagar riots, which claimed 48 lives and rendered scores of Muslim families homeless, Akhilesh had admitted in March that there had been 27 incidents of communal violence since his party came to power. The Chief Minister and his party face the serious charge of attempting to polarise voters in this politically crucial state. At present the Samajwadi Party’s secular credentials lie in tatters. The CPI(M) itself is hardly in a position to claim a moral high ground regarding its sincerity towards Muslims, if the party bothers to explore the causes that led to the demise of its 34-year rule in West Bengal. Its land acquisition policy had targeted a large section of Muslim farmers for whom cultivation was the only source of livelihood.
Not to mention that Muslims continue to remain stuck in socio-economic backwardness.
Why then the anti-communal convention and the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric? A traditional ally of the CPI(M), Mulayam’s friendship with the Left goes back a few decades, even before the days when the veteran Marxist leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet, known as Chanakya in Delhi’s political circles, had lobbied hard for Mulayam’s candidature for the country’s top post in 1997. After a brief hiatus, the relationship is now being rejuvenated with Karat hoping to gain political mileage for the CPI(M) in furthering the prospects of Mulayam in the race to 10 Janpath.
The CPI(M)’s efforts to bring together such forces only highlight the Left’s political and ideological bankruptcy.