Will the Phoenix Rise: A century on, Communist Party hopes for revival

When TMC supremo and West Bengal CM, Mamata Banerjee launched her war cry against the Left regime she had famously said that Bodla Noye Bodol Chayi. Something that loosely translates to I want change not revenge. The fall of the Left after 34 years of rule marked a turning point in the politics of West Bengal. It also in some ways spelt out the future course of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).  

What started off as a downfall of the Left in the key bastion of West Bengal gradually saw even Tripura see the same fate follow suit. With just Kerala in the kitty of the left, the poor show in the general elections have proven to be the last nail in the coffin of the Left regime. As a combined show of  its strength the CPI and CPI(M) can only boast of  five seats in the Lok Sabha, unlike its glorious past. As the Communist Party marks its centenary year there are growing calls for the reunification of CPI, CPI(M) and smaller left parties.

The talks about a coming together of the parties has continued since the early 90s, when Indrajit Gupta was the CPI General Secretary, and Harkishan Singh Surjeet was the CPI(M) General Secretary.

Historically, the CPI(M) came to be during the seventh Congress of the Communist Party of India in Kolkata in 1964 after parting ways with the CPI.

Ever since the Bhatinda Congress, there has been a big push for a ‘Left and Democratic Alternative’, another faction spoke of a united Left.

There have been many efforts for Left unity among several trade unions led by Left parties. Serious efforts on this front started from 1989 after the Chennai Congress of the CPI, where the party came out with a resolution for reunification with the CPI(M).

Even as Kerala is witness to an alliance between CPI and CPI(M) in Kerala  differences still persist.

Historically, Left remains at a very tightspot politically. In a decade there strength nationally power wise has gone down from 3 states to one.

Led by the CPI(M), the Left ruled for seven consecutive terms from 1977 to 2011 in West Bengal. Reduced to third place in the recent Parliamentary elections in terms of number of votes, since 2011, the party has continued to fight for its existence.  In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, CPI(M) managed to win just two seats in West Bengal, and CPI won none. In the 2016 Assembly elections, the CPI(M) contested 147 seats and won a total of 25 seats. The CPI, which stood in 11 seats, managed to win just one. And in 2019, the Left did not even manage to open their account in the state.

Left front ruled the Kerala for 10 years from 1978 to 1988, and then regained power in 1993 until 2018.

To mark the centenary of the formation of the Communist Party of India, the country will see year long celebrations which were recently initiated.

In 2018 Tripura got a Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister. In Kerala remains some existence of the Left nationally.

Last Lok Sabha elections on being studied shows – the Left Front was virtually wiped off its bastions showing a complete downfall.

Interestingly poll watchers write that this was the first time since 1952 that the Left Front did not end up with double digits in the general election. Its highest ever tally of 61 seats had come in 2004.

The Left Front, comprising of Communist Party of India (CPI), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party saw its best phase in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Its role as the kingmaker during the Third Front regime was well recorded.

As experts rue that the ideological influence of the Left seems to be waning, popular belief suggests that with principal opponents – Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and United Democratic Front in Kerala anti-BJP, the Left needs to reinvent and reshape its strategy and agenda going beyond anti-BJP rhetoric. Aiming at new and attractive solutions to age old issues that click with voters.

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