Left a shadow of its past in stitching opposition alliance nationally
Kolkata, Jan 1 : Once a fulcrum of opposition alliances, the CPI(M)-led Left Front with its reduced strength now seems to be a shadow of its past with regional parties stepping into its shoes in national politics to fight the BJP.
The Left Front, which once did hand holding for various regional parties in its non-Congress non-BJP 'Third front', now neither has the numbers nor the influence it used to wield.
CPI(M) politburo member Hannan Mollah said on several occasions in the past the Left had played a major role in uniting opposition forces, but in the present situation it does not have the numerical strength to do so.
"There is no denying the fact that numbers are an important factor in parliamentary politics. The strength we presently have in Parliament... it is not possible for us to play that role. Various regional parties are now trying to do it," Mollah, also general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, the party's peasants' wing, told PTI.
"The more the number of MPs you have the more you command respect from others. We can just say that we would play a positive role with whatever strength we have in order to ensure that a secular government comes to power," he said.
The Samajwadi Party, which had always been a trusted ally of the Left in national politics, said its role in stitching nationwide opposition alliance has become "insignificant and irrelevant".
"The Left's role now is insignificant and irrelevant. The regional parties which once functioned (at the national level) under the shadow of the Left have now become major political entities. And the Left does not have a charismatic leadership to lead such as alliance," vice-president Kiranmay Nanda told PTI.
The CPI(M) had played a pivotal role when the Left parties had over 50 MPs in the Lok Sabha, he said, adding that the situation is not in "our favour".
During the United Front rule in 1996 and the UPA-I in 2004, the CPI(M)-led Left Front had 52 and 61 seats in the Lok Sabha respectively. During the V P Singh government in 1989, the LF had 52 seats in the Lok Sabha.
But the number of its MPs in the Lok Sabha in 2014 was vastly reduced to 11 after the LF lost its main bastion West Bengal, which sends 42 MPs to the Lok Sabha, to the Trinamool Congress.
The CPI(M) is now in power only in Kerala, which has 20 Lok Sabha seats.
The party also misses the leadership of Harkishan Singh Surjeet and Jyoti Basu.
Surjeet served as the General Secretary of the party from 1992 to 2005, while Basu was chief minister of West Bengal between 1977 and 2000.
"The present leadership is trying, but the present situation and circumstances are not in our favour. Various regional parties such as the TMC, the TDP, the SP, the RJD are at the forefront of anti-BJP alliances," he said.
"Our present leadership neither has that vision nor the charisma of Surjeet-Basu," another senior CPI(M) leader said on condition of anonymity.
Under the leadership of the two, the party had not only played a pivotal role in the formation of the V P Singh government in 1989, the United Front government in 1996 and the Congress led UPA-I government in 2004, but has also helped in bringing together various regional and national parties opposed to the BJP and the RSS under one umbrella.
Such was their acceptance across party lines that Basu was offered the post of prime minister in 1996, though it was turned down by the CPI(M). Surjeet was also described as "king maker" in parliamentary politics for his ability in mending and assembling broad coalitions.
CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said one of the reasons behind the fall of BJP governments in three Hindi heartland states was the massive farmer agitation led by the Left.
"Issues such as farm loan waiver were accepted by the Congress and other parties. They are forced to come on a single platform. Farmers' agitation proved to be the Achilles heel for the BJP," Chakraborty said.
However, a section of CPI(M) leaders feel that when other opposition parties are busy touring the entire country in uniting the opposition, the Marxist have been playing a second fiddle to the Congress on many occasions.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu have been touring the country, meeting leaders of various parties to unite the opposition against the BJP with the hope of playing a major role in government formation after the 2019 general election.
CPI(M)'s ally All India Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas said the Left's role in Indian politics cannot be determined by only the numbers of MPs in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha.
CPI state Secretary Swapan Banerjee said the Left is still relevant as only it can provide an alternative common minimum programme against the policies of the BJP.