The CPI-M in Telangana state (TS) had taken two major initiatives in recent past. It took initiative to form T-MASS, and later a BLF to fight elections. The Secretary of CPM of TS, Tammineni Veerabhadram, a CC Member, is the General Secretary of both these Fronts, indicating its decisive role in both. The Chairman of T-MASS is Prof. Kancha Ilaiah, a scholar- activist of Bahujan (SC-BC) movemnt, and of BLF is Nalla Surya Prakash, ex-President of BSP TS unit. Much hype was created about both in the media, and among progressive political elements all over the country, more so in Kerala too. It was regarded as a welcome departure in the policies and tactics of CPM. However, not much has come out by way of a critical and sincere review by the party or by T-MASS or BLF.
The Central Committee of the CPI(M) issued the following statement on December 17:
“The Central Committee reiterated the electoral tactics adopted at its last meeting held in October for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The main tasks that it had set before the Party was to defeat the BJP alliance; to increase the strength of the CPI(M) and the Left in the Lok Sabha and to ensure that an alternative secular government is formed at the centre.
The Central Committee has asked the state units of the Party to make preparations in consonance with this tactical line….The Central Committee discussed the performance of the Party in Telangana and Rajasthan. Once the state committees conduct a detailed review, necessary steps would be taken.”
The CPM announced that it would continue with BLF for the current Loksabha election. Though there were conflicting media reports, it should be assumed it was the result of such a review. We need to go into related facts. Tammineni announced that the policy and tactics were correct, but it could not be taken much into people.
Let us know more about T-MASS as well as BLF.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, Chairman of T-MASS, wrote in an article dated January 31, 2018, published in countercurrents.org :
“The newly formed organization popularly called T-MASS is a registered organization under the Telangana Government’s Registration Act with a name “Telangana Mass and Social Organizations”. Under its broad umbrella many Ambedkarist, Phuleite, communist, humanist, women organizations are working with a broad philosophical framework of Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar and Karl Marx. Its banners always carry the portraits of these thinkers…The T-MASS was formed on July 4, 2017 with the initiative of the CPI(M) of Telangana and several Ambedkarist-Phuleites organizations and activists like Gaddar, Kaki Madhava Rao ( the first Dalit Chief Secretary of the united Andhra Pradesh) Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd etc…
“Within six months it became a very impressive mass movement that drew hundreds of left and Phule-Ambedkarite and other welfare organizations into its fold.
“ By the end of January, 2018 the organization has grown so much that out of 10,434 villages in the state, its committees came into existence in about 6 thousand villages. Out of 584 Mandals of the state its committees are formed in about 400 Mandals. All thirty districts of Telangana had the well attended district conferences and very broad based committees are formed in all the districts. It was a great pleasure to see in every meeting red, blue and green flags fluttering in the processions and public meetings.”
He further added : “When its State Secretary Tammineni Veerabhadram started a Pada yatra (Telugu usage for a long journey by walk) in late 2016 making the social justice issue as the main plank there was tremendous response from several sections of OBC/SC/STs. In a massive public meeting in March 2017 at Hyderabad, on the concluding day of the padayatra, its national Secretary Sitaram Yechuri has also said ‘Lal-Neel’ unity is our goal and our slogan would be ‘Jai-Bheem-Lal Salam’. Though Veerabhrdram came from the Kamma (Shudra upper caste background) and Yechuri came from the Brahmin background, the Telangana Dalit/OBC activists began to take them seriously and believe them.”
He even asserted: “The T-MASS has now become a socio-cultural revolutionary movement that may pave, as Ambedkar in his book ‘The Annihilation of Caste’ said, a way for a sustainable social justice centered political revolution through vote in future. All the communist streams of India must realize that the days of armed struggles are gone.”
In fact, Ilaiah saw a model emerging : “The unity of Ambedkarists and Marxists (communists) in the electoral domain will have to precede by forming social movement based alliances all over the country. Such unity was also seen in Maharastra in the Bhima-Koregaon struggle. But such alliance has to take an organizational shape there as happened in Telangana.”
Thus as per the Chairman of T-MASS, it had credibility, gone into and had formed committees in 6000 villages, and had commenced its work with a padayatra in late 2016, i.e., two years before the polling. It has been endorsed by Yechuri, the General Secretary of CPM. The Secretary of both, Tammineni, is well known to be a very ‘resourceful’ leader, also in the material sense, and had the reputation of collecting and spending crores of rupees for elections; he was elected a Loksabha Member during 2004-09. CPM had declared that it has a Reserve Fund of Rs. 438 cr as on 2015-16, one of the richest among India’s parties.
In BLF there were also Gaddar, who once was a symbol and voice of revolutionary Left, and Mrs. Vimalakka of ML movement, both very popular singer-activists, who regularly spoke and sang in rallies attended by lakhs of people, also as part of separate Telangana movement.
All in all, it was shown to be a formidable Front, if only on paper.
Endorsing the above view, a Report titled Telangana Assembly Elections 2018: Bahujan Left Front Manifesto in CPM’s official organ peoplesdemocracy.in (PD) said:
“ BAHUJAN Left Front (BLF) was formed with a scientific understanding and with the view of realising the objectives of Phule, Ambedkar and Marx. BLF feels that 98 per cent of the population constituting the BC, SC, STs and poor sections of upper classes are important for the comprehensive development of Telangana. Socialised Telangana alone will realise the aspirations of the hitherto oppressed social classes. BLF’s aim is to protect Telangana from contractorisation and privatisation which is seriously threatening social justice in the state. No party or alliance has the agenda which is being brought forward by the BLF. It has emerged as the political front of social classes and castes which were oppressed for generations together.”
Thus it has an idelogical and political premise, now upheld by the CPM, apart from what it sees as a unique appeal.
In a later issue it reported: “ The Telangana assembly elections are being held on December 7. The Bahujan Left Front (BLF) of which the CPI(M) is also a constituent is contesting all 119 seats in the state. The CPI(M) is contesting in 26 assembly constituencies.
“CPI(M) leaders including Sitaram Yechury, Manik Sarkar, Brinda Karat, BV Raghavulu and K Hemalata participated in the election campaign and addressed a large number of public meetings.
“Speaking about the KCR government, Sitaram (Yechuri) said that he had promised to change the lives of Telangana people but instead KCR has looted the state. The Telangana people are forced to migrate to the cities and other states of the country for want of jobs. Telangana elections are keenly observed as this may impact the ensuing parliamentary elections.”
“The other speakers who campaigned widely in the state include Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of B R Ambedkar and Kancha Ilaiah, chairman of T mass. They spoke in election meetings and participated in road shows. The BLF has the largest number of candidates from BCs, SCs and STs. They said that apart from an explicit mention that the chief minister of the state will be from BC and the deputy chief minister a woman, the BLF once elected to power shall work for Rythu bandhu, Kooli bandhu and food canteens. Prakash firmly said that the ‘blue’ (Ambedkarism) and the ‘red’ (Marxism) are a historical necessity and that it is gaining strength in large parts of the country.”
PD published a detailed Manifesto of BLF. It has many welfare measures listed, but almost none beyond what is being already implemented by TRS and TDP in Telugu states in the wake of elections.They are schemes to buy votes with public money, like what were initiated by YSR, and by ADMK/DMK in Tamilnadu. Around one crore families in each state, out of a population of 3crore in TS, and 4 crore in AP , are officially in receipt of one or the other of welfare schemes. For instance, pensions to the old-aged, widows,single women etc are Rs 2000 per month, and Rs 3000 for physically handicapped. Just before the pre-poned elections even unemployment allowance was announced by TRS; and TDP had the time to release the first instalment @ Rs 2000 per month. There are crores of workers who do not receive even Rs 1000 pm after 30 plus years of service, it may be noted.There are loans, subsidies, corporations with hundreds of crores of rupees allocated in budgets, caste-wise too, apart from STs. There is a sub-plan for SCs, and now proposed for BCs, in the budget. Each farmer is already given,paid into his bank account, Rs. 4000 per acre per crop, whether cultivated or not; it is to be enhanced to Rs. 5000. Tenants were initially excluded, but later KCR announced they too will be included in future.So it is in AP. And now Modi and Rahul too announced similar schems. Subsidised lunch @Rs.5 is being served in capital city, proposed to be extended to more towns. English medium in Govt schools is promised, but that is what is already going on in TS and AP.
None can beat the ruling parties in this game of theirs. Surely not a BLF, a small force in opposition. TS is raising a budget of around Rs. 2 lakh crore from a population of 3 crores, obviously a loot by direct and indirect taxes, out of which a small part is set apart for welfarism, another name to reduce people into beggars dependent on doles to sustain the system of exploitation. BLF is silent about it all. It makes same or similar schemes.
Its Manifesto is basically same or similar to what is going on. The PD gave a heading Alternative Policies of BLF, but has nothing like a real alternative of policies:
There is nothing like opposing imperialism, MNCs, Big Business in the Manifesto; nor against landlord system that is at the root of caste discrimination the BLF speaks about. Already SC-ST Atrocities Act is in vogue. “Surplus land of 3 acres will be distributed to each family”, BLF says. TRS had announced it in 2014, initiated it in a token way, and reiterated it saying it could not really take off. In fact “surplus land” has been a mirage since the land reforms heralded by Indira Gandhi. In fact land reforms have become a means to reform and strengthen landlordism in new forms.
There is nothing against police-raj, beyond a promise about right of dissent,which is there anyhow on paper. Nothing against national and regional chauvinism and jingoism, huge defence Budget etc.In one word, there is nothing basically different or nothing like Left in BLF. There is nothing original or different in the B part of BLF. Results of the election to TS Assembly show that the BLF Manifesto did not make any mark: After all, BLF is an election-oriented Front.
What were the results?
In the advanced poll of December 2018 in Telangana, TRS won 88 seats, Congress 19, TDP 2, MIM 7, BJP 1, CPI and CPM nil. It is the first time CPI and CPM are totally absent in Telangana Legislative Assembly. In 2014 the scores were: TRS 63, Congress 21, TDP 15, MIM 7, BJP 5, CPI and CPM one each.
After the results, PD reported:
“THE election results for Telangana state, have not only brought Telangana Rashtra Samiti to power for the second term, but also, the incumbent Party, TRS improved its position considerably by winning 88 seats out of 119 seats of the assembly. …The Bahujan Left Front which contested 107 (after rejection of 12 nominations) seats including 26 seats contested by CPI(M), could not win a single seat. CPI(M) polled less votes than last time. Total votes polled by CPI(M) in the state are 91,099 (0.4 per cent) and the total votes polled by BLF are 2,32,514(1.1per cent).” (PD, December 30, 2018).
How can this poor voting of CPM and BLF be understood or reviewed ? More so when BLF is an “impressive mass movement that drew hundreds of left and Phule-Ambedkarite and other welfare organizations” with committes in 6000 villages, and conferences in all 30 districts , as it was claimed, as mentioned above. Many of these organizations have been there for years or even decades. CPM’s efforts started at least two years before elections. In fact, the phrase social Telangana , used by BLF, is nothing new; it is more than a decade old, used literally thousands of times in hundreds of meetings across Telangana, and made popular in the media too. Actually it is an euphemism for caste-oriented politics, of course of SCs, STs, BCs, minorities etc. There is no dearth of such politics because almost all ruling class parties, have such SC ST BC Minority cells. Even BJP has them all, including Muslim minority cells!
It needs to be noted that BLF votes included those of two candidates from ruling class parties who failed to get their party tickets and were given BLF symbol to contest. Out of 2,32,514 votes of BLF 64822 were polled by those two; 91099 by CPM in 26 seats, and the remaining 76593 votes were by BLF allies in 79 seats. And they are votes polled by a BLF with committees in 6000 villages! BLF votes included those polled by CPI ML New Democracy-Bose group, 16400 votes in two seats, including Illendu (12899 votes) won by them more than once. And those of MCPI ( a break-away group of CPM, founded long ago by late Omkar, MLA, rather like that of Gouriamma of Kerala.): About 4600 votes in four seats. Both these groups had one MLA each more than once. Obviously, their base too got eroded. Not to speak of the mass base of CPM which had 15 MLAs in 1994, apart from 19 of CPI. Obviously, BLF had roped in “hundreds” of organizations that are more paper tigers, projected in news papers almost daily for decades.
The number of organizations (hundreds) shows their fragmentary nature as also divisive character, despite (or because of ?) Ambedkar, Phule ideologies they mouthed for at least -30 years now in Telangana. The ‘identity movements’ have been working with a divisive and diversionary agenda than with a uniting and struggle-oriented approach. The CPM invested huge resources on these politics for years, and tried it now in the form of BLF for their own electoral ends. The results are there for all to see, of course only if they want to see.
BLF failed to unite political forces
It may be noted that despite all the hype, the Bahujan Left Front failed to unite the related parties and forces, neither all Leftists nor all Bahujan forces: There were more such forces outside than inside BLF. For instance CPI, some ML groups, BSP and its clones, many RPI and SC political factions, MRPS led by Manda Krishna Madiga, BC groups like those led by R. Krishnaiah (ex-MLA) were not part of BLF. Not that the result would have been basically different if they too were roped in: The CPI polled 83215 votes (0.4 per cent) in the three seats it had contested as part of a hold-all Front led by Congress, Maha kootami ( Grand Alliance) and included TDP, TJS led by popular separatist leader Prof. Kodandaram etc. It had Gaddar to canvass sharing platform with Rahul Gandhi, besides ex-ML leaders like Cheruku Sudhakar who now heads a separatist party, and MRPS.
Despite the alliance and BLF, it should be noted, only 91099 votes (0.4 percent of polled vote) were polled by CPM in 26 seats. It was perhaps the lowest ever vote of CPM in Telangana. For instance, in the recent past, in 2004, CPM alone polled 6.56 lakh votes (1.84per cent) in the 14 seats it had contested. In 2009, it was 5.67 lakh in 18 seats, (1.35 percent); in 2014, 4.07 lakh and 0.81 percent vote. The CPM hoped to salvage itself from a rout with the help of a BLF, but was shocked to score the lowest vote in its history. Its vote is reduced to less than one-fourth of what it was in 2004. CPM hoped BLF would keep it afloat, but met with an electoral disaster.
It may be noted that CPI polled 83215 votes in the three seats, all of them won by it in the past, which it now contested as part of Congress-led Front. This was in comparison to CPM’s 91099 votes in 26 seats. The CPM had BLF allies in 81 seats, but did not accommodate CPI’s three seats, saying CPI was not part of BLF. They could have avoided fielding BLF candidates there, even unilaterally. After all, they avoided contesting against Congress in some places. CPM-BLF fielded a candidate even against Left-oriented Mrs Surepalli Sujata, University-level teacher, an academic-cum-activist,who contested the Chennur-SC Seat on behalf of BSP, which she sought and accepted, according to her, when she was denied a ticket by other parties. In that seat, besides BLF, RPI-K and RPI-A also fielded candidates.
In Wyra, BLF opposed CPI’s ST woman candidate who (with 32767 votes) stood some chance of winning. This kind of contests are more the rule than exception. So much for CPM-led BLF’s SC ST unity! More often than not, more so in Khammam, CPM and CPI contested and defeated each other over the decades. So much for Left unity.
Electoral politics have the inherent logic of dividing the vote bank,however small. And they have cut-throat ways, there is no charity.
In many Assembly seats held earlier by them, CPM now polled, despite the BLF, very low votes. In the 26 seats they contested now, the highest vote, 14228 votes (third place), was in Bhadrachalam which they had represented earlier as MLA as well as MP. In Miryalaguda, where they had MLAs and MPs many times, they now polled 11221 votes, occupying the fourth place. In 12 out of 26 seats, CPM got less than 2000 votes, including 6 places with votes below 1000. All this, despite BLF.
Tammineni tried to project anti-Congress, anti-BJP, anti-TRS Front. He claimed CPM is interested to build a genuine Left base, and not in terms of votes and seats. In fact, around 1998, one CPM Congress had reviewed 13 years as an ally of TDP, and decided NOT to ally with ‘bourgeois’ parties, and instead to focus on revivng and expanding the Left base that they found weakened by prolonged electoral alliances. At one time, CPM flaunted anti-Congressism but it gave up even that premise. Tammineni’s claim did not however carry conviction as, soon after that Resolution, CPM had allied with congress (UPA-1, and YSR-led AP Congress) and YSR Congress led by Jagan later. It had joined hands with TRS at the peak of separate Telangana agitation even while saying it is opposed to separation. Of course, it had supported VP Singh’s National Front even while the NF had entered into a deal with BJP.
Even in recent past, 2016, CPM in Bengal had a comprehensive understanding with Congress, leaving it to contest 92 seats, sharing almost one third seats, to defeat – not the communal BJP, which was not a force to reckon with at that time – but to defeat Trinamul Congress which calls itself a secular party. It had given up, after almost 40 years, its anti-Congressism, but miserably failed in its objective. In fact, despite this surrender to Congress, it was relegated to third place, Congress grabbing the second place. Likewise, BJP was never a force to reckon with in AP or TS but CPM had allied with all and sundry, merely for its survival. Thus Tammineni and CPM, when they claimed anti-Congress platform for BLF, were only making a virtue out of necessity, and observers noted that time-serving gimmicks and opportunism have been its hallmark.
We have noted above, with voting figures, that despite this BLF alliance CPM polled the lowest-ever vote in Telangana.
Ilaiah’s Theories Vs Reality
- MASS Chairman Ilaiah wrote : “The T-MASS has now become a socio-cultural revolutionary movement that may pave, as Ambedkar in his book ‘The Annihilation of Caste’ said, a way for a sustainable social justice centered political revolution through vote in future. All the communist streams of India must realize that the days of armed struggles are gone.” Instead, he saw a new model: “The Telanagan experiment seems to set a course of trusted relationship between Ambedkarists and Marxists.” (same source).
He concluded his article thus: “The Ambedkarist social organizations and the communist organizations need to discuss the Telangana experiment and see that it could be extended to other states and to the whole of India in days to come.”
After the results, however, Ilaiah, the T-MASS Chairman, the much-hyped ideologue and theoretician, had not made any serious Review of the Telangana experiment. Of course few in Telangana and AP nowadays take him seriously, for all his omissions and commissions, over the years, as an intellectual. For 60-plus years, he was only Kancha Ilaiah, but in recent past the Professor added a suffix to his name and called himself Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd. Given his fad for English medium, which he sees as a panacea for the oppressed, some people initially thought or joked that he was borrowing it from the famous English poet. But he had clarified that he added it to signify the caste, a sheep-rearing community, he was born into. That was his application of Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. But that has been a feature of many Ambedkarites and Bahujan vadis in recent past.
Ilaiah wrote: “All the communist streams of India must realize that the days of armed struggles are gone.” He upholds the BLF experiment as a way ahead in the current ‘democratic’ dispensation. He further wrote : “Once upon a time they (Communists) considered it as the bourgeois-feudal constitution, therefore, needs to be torn into pieces. That was when they did not study and understand how it replaced the most barbaric Manu Constitution. Now protecting the Ambedkar’s constitution is the most revolutionary task before them. In fact, all the Ambedkarist, Marxist and Nehruvians need to do this collectively.”
There is no use blaming the revolutionary communists regarding the Constitution. The Professor and political scientist should know the following well-documented episode that has remained covered up for long by the Indian State, and by many Ambedkarites including himself:
In the course of a debate in Rajya Sabha on September 2, 1953, Ambedkar said : “People always keep saying to me: ‘Oh, you are the maker of the Constitution’. “My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do, I did much against my will.” (Oxford Dictionary says ‘hack’ is ‘a person hired to do dull routine work.’)
Then a Member from Rajasthan said: “But you defended it.” Ambedkar shot back: “We lawyers defend many things.” The then Home Minister Katju said Ambedkar was responsible for drafting the Constitution. And Ambedkar said: “you want to accuse me of your blemishes?” Then he later added: “ Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody.”
(See MK Adithya 14 April, 2016 in Countercurrents.org.
For more on this, see Dhananjay Keer’s classic biography on BR Ambedkar, 1954, Revised Edition1971)
Facts confirm this statement of Ambedkar, not what Ilaiah claimed. Despite 70 years of the Constitution, the poorest of the poor are left behind and concentration of wealth is going on in an unprecedented manner. Dalits, more so in villages, continue to be oppressed and discriminated; the polity is more casteist than ever, and even untouchability in vaious forms continues in much of India.In fact, notwithstanding a different interpretation, BLF itself ascribes its birth to failure of the polity wherein the majority are perpetually ruled by a tiny minority, despite this Constitution.
T-MASS leader Gaddar shifts to support Congress-led Alliance
CPM and Ilaiah for sometime now projected Gaddar, the once revolutionary balladeer known across India, who was very popular in Telangana. There was ‘political untouchability’ between Gaddar and CPM for decades: For about 40 years he had campaigned for politics of armed struggle and the call ‘Boycott Elections’, inimical to CPM. Now he announced and switched to electoral politics, evn toyed with idea of himself contesting elections. Ilaiah and CPM said they would support Gaddar against TRS leader KCR if others agreed on him as the united opposition candidate. That was not to be. We do not know if Ilaiah was among those who convinced Gaddar that we “ must realize that the days of armed struggles are gone.”
Even while Tammineni spoke of anti-Congress Front, and Gaddar was projected, by Ilaiah too, as a T-MASS leader, Gaddar slipped away. For some years now, Gaddar, the supporter of PWG/Maoist party for decades, turned an Ambedkarite, even while speaking of Marxism. And he took the opportunist path of several parliamentary politicians by switching from anti-Congress platform to Congress-led Alliance that claimed fighting the ‘neo-feudal’ KCR. Of course, it helped none, as Congress miserably lost in Telangana winning only 19 seats out of 119, while its ally TDP won only two setas. Worse was what followed: Within three months of election result, 10 out of 19 Congress MLAs already defected to the ‘neo-feudal’s TRS party’.
Indeed,Gaddar along with his wife and son had gone all the way from Hyderabad to Delhi, met Soniamma ( mother Sonia Gandhi) and Rahul Gandhi at their home, had a photo session with them, and sang in praise of them. It was reported, acknowledged by him too, that lobbying went on to obtain a Congress ticket for his son. Back from Delhi, Gaddar shared platforms in mass rallies with Rahul and Chandra Babu and gave a call to support Congress-led alliance to defeat the ‘neo-feudal KCR’, and his TRS. CPM and BLF did not like it from Gaddar, but people recall CPM’s own alliance with UPA-1, and YSR-led Congress in AP.
Telangana’s Experiments: Old and New
Telangana’s communists took a revolutionary path during 1946-51 which yielded rich experiences, even in terms of elections, to learn from.
In 1952, ‘independent’ India’s first election, based on adult franchise,was held. In that election, held in the wake of Telangana styruggle (1946-51 Oct), when the population and hence the electorate was much smaller, Telangana’s communists, because of a virtual ban on the party, had contested in the name of PDF and polled 13.6 lakh votes or 28 percent of polled vote, as per EC data, in the then Hyderabad state. That is in comparison to today’s BLF that polled 2.32 lakh votes or 1.1 percent of polled vote in 107 seats (equal to 15 Lokseats) of Telangana where it contested.
It is well known that the undivided CPI had then (1952) polled 3.09 lakh votes (38.3 percent in that seat) in Nalgonda Loksabha seat (Ravi Narayana Reddy) alone. Next highest vote in the same seat was by Sunkam Achchaalu (SC), also of CPI/PDF,who polled 2.82 lakh votes (35 percent in that seat).There was the system of ‘double-member constituencies’, and Nalgonda was one such. Thus, together, communists polled over 73 percent vote. Congress had polled, likewise for two candidates, 22.72 percent vote.There was a candidate of SC Federation (founded by BR Ambedkar) who polled 3.97 percent vote.
Obviously, Telangana’s communists had led, organized, and served the rural poor,including dalits, fought and died for them, and won their confidence. They were different from Trade Union-based communists, who were essentially reformists. It is utter prejudice and blindness, on the part of spokespersons of identity-movements, to deny the communists’ role, particularly in Telangana, in organizing the dalits as part of the oppressed masses. It is utter defeatism and tailism of the parliamentary communists not to learn from the rich experiences of Telangana. It was all made possible because of a revolutionary agrarian program of Telangana armed struggle. With such a program, if really practised, one can not escape the caste/dalit question. The fighting people, dalits and non-dalits, “ate together, fought together, and died together”, as Telangana’s veteran DV Rao narrated and pointed out in his work on History of Telangana.
The revolutionary path of Telangana was basically different from the reformist-Constitutional path that has utterly failed over the last 70 years.
The parliamentary Left, the CPI-CPM,were increasingly reduced into a trade union or reformist party that had no agrarian revoltionary program in practice. Even in trade unions they are led by trade union bureaucracy and labor aristocracy, as Lenin called the phenomenon. They are living more on past laurels. They had deserted the revolutionary path of Telangana and gradually squandered, and disrupted, the huge communist base in Telangana, as also a smaller one in AP.
Elsewhere too the Kerala-Bengal path CPM claimed for long is in crisis. If CPM could win in Kerala, Bengal and Tripura, it was more because of past work in peasantry. Punnapra-Vayalar, Kayyur, Malabar, Tebhaga, Tripuri, Worli etc adivasi and peasant struggles laid the foundations for their electoral victories. One can see that communists could not win elections in many trade union bases. There were some, even if half-hearted, land reforms of EMS-AKG era, and Operation Barga (addressing Bargadars or tenant poor peasants) that helped the communists to retain their base.
The later-day work of CPI and CPM among farmers on remunerative price for farm produce etc, while welcome, is not sufficient. They are often more kulak-oriented. Their work among farmers, welcome by itself, is more election-oriented as was the case in recent times. All these agitations are within the framework of their class collaborationist policies and sheer parliamentarism. The ruling class parties are much more crafty and effective in parliamentary games : AK Antony, Kerala’s ex-CM, handled Kerala’s tribal land question in the wake of CK Janu’s agitation.
The ruling classes are more equipped, with huge budgets, to buy over the farmers with doles; and more equipped with huge armed forces to suppress the rural poor.TRS and TDP in the two Telugu states, not only promised, but also pumped in crores of rupees into bank accounts of farmers (at the rate of Rs. 4000-5000 per acre, twice an year, cultivated or not cultivated) and women, just before elections. And Modi-led BJP is doing the same now from Centre. Now Rahul-led Congress and Jagan-led YSR Congress promised similar schemes.
Parliamentary politics increasingly became captive to moneybags, liquor barrels, casteism, communalism, lumpenism, out-right purchase of not only voters but also legislators (despite ant-defection laws).In this competitive process, much of CPM also became a degenerate and corrupt ruling party with lumpenism,wielding big money, as admitted by several organizational reports of CPM itself, more so in Bengal. Rigging the elections in various forms, including by manipulating the voters’ lists, has been a norm for the ruling class parties. And allegations of ‘scientific rigging’ were made against CPM too in Bengal, and it was allegedly one factor in its rule for three decades in a row.
CPM as a ruling party in Kerala has been playing the caste and communal card ‘intellegently’ through LDF: How it handled Christian and Muslim political groups is well known. But still, unlike the uninterrupted rule in Bengal, Kerala’s LDF has been only part of a game of musical chairs.They are also helped by politics of subtle suppression and arm-twisting by CPM in Kerala, as is felt by many.
In recent past, doles and concessions by ruling parties have become the norm, and there are no differences between Rightists and Leftists in this regard. Outright purchase of votes, by transferring thousands of rupees into bank accounts of voters in the name of various so-called welfare schemes, all well-timed with elections, has become the norm.
It is in the above context the Left is fighting elections, hoping against hope. And they can’t hope to win by their worn-out ways. Their continued stagnation and shrinking strength in parliament is enough to conclude the futility of their program and path, strategies and tactics. No amount of tinkering would help, as shown by BLF’s experience. .
CPM indulged in Singur, Nandigram etc in the name of development and paid for it in Bengal. They neglected peasantry including adivasis in Tripura and lost there too. Only such defeats shattered their smugness but they did not alter their ways. They made some apologetic remarks later, but it was too late. Their LDF in Kerala is under stress, despite the ongoing game of musical chairs, which is accentuated by similar ways in the name of ‘development’. Sangh pariwar is ready to fish in troubled waters. If necessary, it is seen already, they will trouble the waters and fish.
In addition, the fear of revolution, ignited after Naxalbari and Srikakulam, forced the ruling classes to accommodate the parliamentary Left if only to counter the revolutionary forces. But that time is up as seen in Bengal and Tripura. The CPM is thrown to the third place. The Left MPs in Loksabha were 60 in 2004 and in 2014, they are hardly 12. And Bengal has only two MPs. Congress, now second in Bengal, is reluctant to tie up with CPM despite the latter’s repeated overtures at highest level. Obviously Congres is not ready to concede ground to CPM despite all talk of secularism and the need to defeat BJP. In Bengal and Tripura, the ruling classes outwitted CPM by several clandestine deals. They blame Mamata’s repressive ways for their plight. If CPM, a cadre-based party with lakhs of members that ruled for 30 years, can not defend itself, who can help them?
In Tripura entire Congress base shifted to BJP, helping the latter to defeat CPM. In Bengal it shifted to Trinamul, which is a Congress clone, among others. There are defections from CPM, not only into Trinamul, but even BJP! In Kerala, Sabarimala saw Congress hobnobbing with BJP. Christian and Muslim political forces joined hands with sangh pariwar, in the second edition of Vimochana Samaram (Liberation Struggle) of 1958-59. There are warning bells to CPM in Kerala.
The vocal sections from ‘dalits and bahujans’, like many others, have been a ready prey to the lures of power and pelf, as experienced by BR Ambedkar himself. He could never get elected on his own. Ambedkarites and dalit parties joining hands with ruling class parties, even with BJP and NDA, has been a routine phenomenon by now.
In using caste card for electoral ends, the ruling classes and their parties are more adept, and more ‘resourceful’. Even the BJP has used it, in the form of sub-caste politics to divide SCs STs BCs, even Muslims (Shias for instance), to outwit not only Congress, but also BSP SP etc in their own game.
Electoral politics are inherently divisive, carving out vote banks. The ruling class parties are past masters in that craft. The Left can not hope to beat them in their game. And they would not be LEFT forces anymore if they try and persist in such games.
The Constitution, amended 124 times, and ‘rule of law’, as tamed and moulded by them, have been their handmaids for 70 years. On the other hand , for a basic change in the system, unity for stuggle is essential. BLF-like tricks may not work in times to come, as experience of Telangana elections shows.
(All emphases added)
(The author is a mediaperson, and has been a contributor to countercurrents.org.)