Old fault lines in the CPM have resurfaced ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, threatening to undermine the proposed anti-BJP coalition at the national level.
In what may be seen as piggybacking on the semantic ambiguity of party’s political-tactical line, leaders close to former general secretary Prakash Karat have declined to join hands with the Congress in Rajasthan, Telengana and Andhra in clear violation of the understanding arrived at the Hyderabad Conference this April. The phrase “no understanding” with the Congress was deleted from the document as so facilitate a wider national coalition against the BJP.
However, Rajasthan State secretary Amara Ram, Telengana state secretary B V Raghavulu and his Andhra counterpart P Madhu, who are among the hardcore leaders who have not yet reconciled to the idea of having understanding with the Congress, are now busy forging state-level alliances sans the grand old party.
In Rajasthan, a third front called ‘Rajasthan Democratic Front’, comprising the CPM, CPI, CPIML, Marxist-Communist Party of India, RLD, JDS and Samajawadi Party, has been formed ostensibly to defeat BJP in the state and at the Centre.
The BSP, which secured 3.48% votes in the last election is yet to open its cards. In the last election, the CPM had polled 4.46% votes, the SP 1.40%, CPI 1.47%, JDS 0.39 %, RLD 0.32% and the CPIML 0.65% votes. How can these parties with such ludicrous vote share (barring CPM), defeat the BJP in Rajasthan and at the Centre?
The CPM had an understanding with the Congress in Rajasthan in 2008 and four of its candidates got elected (first time in party’s history). In the subsequent elections, the CPM contested separately but never won a seat. There is a personal angle too in Amara Ram’s ‘anti-Congressism’.
He contested Lok Sabha elections from Sikar several times since 1996 but in vain and party sources say he is eyeing the constituency again, though it was a Congress seat that BJP wrested in 2014.
In Telengana, state chief Raghavulu is set to form a ‘Bahujan Left Front’ comprising some political activists and obscure parties to take on the TRS, BJP and the Congress-TDP-CPI front. It may be noted that Raghavulu’s protégé S Veeraiah, his wife S Punyavathi, his camp follower and CITU president K Hemalatha (all CC members) and her son R Arun Kumar had unsuccessfully opposed Yechury’s re-election as general secretary.
Lack of Opposition unity in Telengana is expected to help the TRS and the BJP respectively. Sources say as part of a tacit understanding, the TRS will facilitate BJP victory in three Lok Sabha seats as quid pro.
TRS boss K Chandrashekar Rao is the only chief minister who could meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi thrice in a month much to the envy of even BJP CMs. With CPM exploring a local front, Andhra is expected to witness a four cornered fight with BJP, YSR Congress, and TDP-Congress-CPI alliance vying for the spoils of office.
Andhra and Telengana leaders justify their anti-Congress stand saying the decision of the state committees are final with regard to assembly elections implying that the national leadership should confine itself to parliamentary elections. This stand has been contested by others.
The Hyderabad meeting had rephrased the PTL deleting the para: “However, this (defeating BJP) has to be done without having an understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress Party”. This paragraph was replaced with a new clause: “But this has to be done without having a political alliance with the Congress Party”. The apparent hair-splitting will make it difficult for Yechury to execute the political-tactical line on the ground. Soon after the conclave, ringing an ominous note, the local media had quoted Brinda Karat, PB member and wife Prakash Karat, as having said: “any adjustment with the Congress is not permissible”.
Amidst the controversy, the politburo is meeting in Delhi on September 26 to discuss party’s tactical approach to elections in the five states of Rajasthan, Telengana, Andhra (where the CPM is a marginal player) and Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram (where it is inconsequential). The PB report will be placed before the Central Committee meeting likely to be in the first week of October.
Though Yechury has majority support in the 94-member Central Committee, the two factions are evenly poised in the 17-member Politburo. However, in the case of available Politburo, that often meet at short notices to clinch current and controversial issues, Yechury support base may shrink to 40% hampering his ability to implement party’s policies and programmes.
(The author is a senior journalist and political commentator. Views are personal.)