At the heart of West Bengal's 2014 election narrative is the stunning decimation of the Communist Party on India (Marxist), which once held the state in its iron grip for three decades and more. Simultaneously, riding Modi's soaring popularity, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), registered a palpable presence in the state where it was a mere political blip so far. The BJP's tally of two seats equalling that of the CPI-M is a telling comment on the plight of the Left parties. Consider the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the CPI-M had nine seats, and the Left Front 15.
Remarkably though, the ruling Trinamool Congress has managed to hold out against the BJP surge sweeping the country. Yet the BJP's impressive 17% vote share in West Bengal must be worrying for chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Apprehensions of a resurgent BJP dabbling in the troubled waters of the communally sensitive state are already on the rise. In the run-up to the elections, a combative Mamata threw the gauntlet at Narendra Modi, publicly hitting out at him, even calling him the "butcher of 2002 Gujarat riots". For his part, Modi, emphatically declared his intention to send Bangladeshi immigrants packing if he comes to power at the Centre.
Now that the BJP leader has established his supremacy at the Centre and across the Hindi heartland, the political texture of West Bengal could well change. From all indications, the changed political course could further bleed the CPI-M and the Congress. The BJP in these elections has primarily reaped electoral profit at the cost of the CPI-M and not the Trinamool Congress.
Whatever be her governance record, Mamata has proven her credentials to stay at the crease — even when the ground has appeared shaky. The CPI-M and the established Left parties, on the other hand, have driven themselves to the margins of electoral politics. Left ideology, it can be justifiably argued, is no longer defined in the linear Marxist-Leninist sense that it once used to be. In West Bengal, once the CPI-M's very own bastion, the Trinamool Congress had cast itself in the Left's role as the CPI-M continues to tread a politically disastrous path, leading to a severing of the party's ties with its traditional support groups — West Bengal's peasants, Muslims and tribals.
West Bengal's predictable political and electoral monotony came to an end in 2011. The Left Front, uninterruptedly helming the state for 34 years, finally lost the state to the Trinamool Congress. Embattled and drastically reduced in strength both in Parliament and the assembly, the CPI-M since, has not recovered from its losses. Astonishingly, the party leadership, whether under Prakash Karat at the Centre or Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in the state, has appeared listless and devoid of all inclination to reassert itself politically.
In contrast, social movements have proliferated across the country, protesting unfair land acquisition or nuclear energy plants. Unlike the CPI-M of the conventional Left genre, these movements — clubbed under the broad 'Left' rubric — have gathered a momentum of their own, taking the place of mainstream Left parties, a spent force by now.
The emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP), has further robbed the shine — whatever was left of it — of the mainstream Left. As the right-wing government under Narendra Modi takes centrestage, AAP will more and more take on the role of the 'real' Left in the days to come. What then will be left of the CPI-M?