Of ‘diminished’ comrades and Congress

By Nirendra Dev

The Congress party’s base has shrunk and Communists have, in an ironical turn of events, vanished from West Bengal. Now, it is Mamata Banerjee all the way. Importantly, she is seen as ‘more Left than the Left’ and hence she thrives. Her outfit — a splinter organization from the mother’ Congress is now trying to have its footprint in different parts of India, including in far off Goa.

In general, over the last few years, Congress has lost its base across the country. But in the process, the grand old party of India has turned ‘more Left’; and in more ways than one. It started with the JNU protest in 2015 and also on other issues Rahul Gandhi is trying to emulate the language of the comrades. Here comes the new challenge. Just as the two communities with the same ‘historical and cultural’ origins may not necessarily evolve in the same ways, the two political parties trying to fashion a ‘modern pro-communist look cannot see the growth simultaneously either.

The shrinkage of bases of the Congress party and the Indian Communists has also largely created the ground for the growth of BJP. Even the rise of Mamata Banerjee has typical reasoning of poor performance by the Congress and the Communists. In the 2021 polls, the Trinamool Congress’ 200-plus haul would not have been possible had not Congress and Leftists lost all their seats. This downward journey of Communists and Congress has also unnerved minorities such as Muslims and Christians.

The decline is not only electoral but also in exerting influence on the sociopolitical mindset.

In the regions where they are losing their grip, the pro-Hindu BJP has gained ground — of course rising on the ‘Moditva phenomenon’. The religious minorities could have been happy about atheism (the Communists) losing ground. But they are irked as a worse and more dangerous form of political ideology has gained power.

The BJP is now the major opponent of Mamata Banerjee in Bengal. It has 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats and three years back, it came to power in Tripura as well by ousting its Communist government in another red bastion.

The BJP’s ‘growing support base’ in Kerala also essentially means dwindling popularity of Kerala’s two traditional political alliances — UDF (led by the Congress) and the other LDF, led by Leftists. One need not be a bitter rival or detractor to point out that even in Kerala comrade Pinarayi Vijayan has tinted the Communists’ red flag with the hues of saffron, the color associated with Hindu forces. In other words, he is taking care not to ‘offend’ Hindu sentiment with the so-called progressive Communist ideas.

The Communists could be anti-religion, but they have long been the real custodians of a secular polity where nearly 80 percent of its 1.3 billion people are Hindus. The minorities see a protector in Communist leadership although in Kerala, the CPI(M) for long was also known as a pro-Hindu party. Then, you had the Muslim League and the Congress party with a good support base among Catholics.

The electoral data in the last 15 years or so shows that of the three national elections and some state assembly elections — not only have the Communists weakened but there has been a steady rise of the BJP, including in West Bengal and Tripura. The trend has been modest in Kerala too. In other words, the weakening of Communists signals the rise of Hindutva-ridden macho nationalism.

But pragmatism, as they say, is often a good political substitute for naked opportunism. Thus, the Marxists in the southern state of Kerala have actually sparked off a ‘power struggle’ between Kerala’s two dominant minorities — the Muslims and the Christians. Out of a population of 36 million, Muslims and Christians together constitute about 40 percent in this state.

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of books ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’ | IANS )

Image courtesy of (courtesy: dnaindia.com)

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