Left Parties – the necessary alternative! (Opinion Editorial)

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With this series, we wish to bring out a few prevalent opinions within the student community about major political parties contesting for the elections this year. The views expressed by the author are his perspectives alone and should not be construed as facts or opinions endorsed by Insight or IIT Bombay. We only seek to provide the Institute with a platform to engage in constructive debate.

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The following article is written by Rahul Maganti, a third year Undergraduate Student in the Department of Metallurgical Engineering and Material Sciences at IIT Bombay.

Rahul Maganti
The upcoming Lok Sabha elections are tipped to be a face-off between secular and communal parties. But given the gravity of the situation, isn’t it a bit surprising that nobody has been talking about the left parties in general and the CPI(M) in particular which have upheld secular credentials throughout their history? Along with this, it is the alternate development model and a pragmatic vision, as stated in their Manifesto that makes the CPI(M) different from that of the other parties in the fray.

Analysis of the Manifesto

We generally give a lot of importance to Manifestos during the Institute elections, but tend to not do the same in the General Elections. This is one of the lesser seen documents during the course of elections. BJP, which released its Manifesto on April 7th, the day on which the first phase of elections took place, subsequently helped us understand the importance it gives to it’s Manifesto. While the INC manifesto, this time had the ‘Universal Health Care’ as it’s flagship policy as it had ‘Right to food’ in 2009. It’s manifesto is nothing but working more on the failed idea of neo-liberal economic policies and a dependent foreign policy on the US. The AAP, not unexpectedly, came up with transparency and corruption issues. The AAP manifesto was clouded by marred understanding of Economic and Foreign policies. The AAP faces a similar problem even in practicality, as Medha Patkar and Meera Sanyal, people with opposite economic visions and opposite ideologies are contesting for Lok Sabha from the same city of Mumbai, a few kilometres apart.

Talking about the of nuances in the Manifesto of the CPI(M), it would not be any exaggeration to call it’s Manifesto the most progressive and liberal one at offer. After more than 20 years of neoliberal economic policies, the spiralling growth not being inclusive and the social indicators still suffering, CPI(M) has always been advocating an alternate set of economic policies quite different from the economic policies of the NDA and the UPA. Few of them include increased public investment in agricultural production and research, physical and social infrastructure amongst others. The CPI(M) which believes that ‘corruption cannot be tackled in India unless you also address the supply side of corruption, which is the crony capitalism,’ had made it a point to take on the corporate companies head on. The Left Parties agitation against the Reliance industries on gas over-pricing issue is worth being noted here. CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta and CPI(M) leader Tapan Sen are the ones who started this way back in 2006 before Kejriwal hijacked the whole issue and the judiciary is overlooking it now. This also speaks of volumes about the way in which corporate media wants to behave itself – giving no coverage to the Communists as has been ordered by their bosses, who look at Communists as someone who will make life tough for them.

The CPI(M) also called for decriminalising gay sex and amendment of Section 377.

The reason why the Left withdrew support to UPA-1 was it’s tilt towards US via the Indo-US nuclear deal. CPI(M) maintained the same policy and called for an independent non-aligned foreign policy in it’s Manifesto. The CPI(M) also called for decriminalising gay sex and amendment of Section 377. Brinda Karat, CPI(M)’s vocal proponent of feminist movement in the country, asks, “What has the Govt. to do with the private space of two consenting adults?” However, the BJP decided to back this archaic, retrograde and regressive act to satisfy it’s mentor, the RSS.

The CPI(M)’s Manifesto also called for repealing the draconian AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) for which Irom Sharmila was on fast from 13 years. I challenge the Congress or any other party to take this cause up!

The CPI(M)’s Manifesto also called for repealing the draconian AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) for which Irom Sharmila was on fast from 13 years. I challenge the Congress or any other party to take this cause up! When 97 countries across the world have abolished the Death Penalty, it’s time for India to go that way, advocates Prakash Karat, the General Secretary of the CPI(M). After the uproar over the Afzal guru, the CPI(M) politburo came to a conclusion that it doesn’t support the Death Penalty anymore and this was reflected in its manifesto. While no other party had such progressive manifesto point, I argue that death penalty is society’s way of letting itself off the hook. These are some traces in the Manifesto, which also pointed out the need for electoral, constitutional, judiciary and police reforms.

Need for a Secular alternative

The communal underpinning of these elections was being felt right from the moment Narendra Modi was tipped to become the Prime Ministerial Candidate of the BJP. The Muzaffarnagar riots added fuel to the fire. More disappointing is the fact that the person responsible for the same riots was nominated as the MP Candidate by the BJP. Liberal and left intellectuals have been giving rallying cry over the imminent danger India and its diversity faces if Modi, who has all the authoritarian and fascist tendencies, becomes the Prime Minister of the country. On the other hand, BJP promises the building of Ram Temple, which led to the communal flare by the Hindutva in the early 1990’s.

In 1951 India’s first Law Minister Dr. B.R. Ambedkar fought to get our parliament to pass the Hindu Code Bill, a bill which would have granted equal rights to Hindu women denied to them by tradition and religious practice. Had this bill been passed in time, the logical next step would have been to draft a similar bill for Muslims and thus pave the way to work towards a uniform civil code. The Bill was blocked and Dr. Ambedkar resigned in disgust. It was the Hindu right wing with the patriarchal mindset, both in opposition and on the ruling benches, the very leaders that BJP and the RSS still hold dear to their hearts which opposed the Hindu Code Bill.

A Left Front rally in Kolkata's famous Brigade Ground which had more than 10 Lakh people attending it.

A Left Front rally in Kolkata’s famous Brigade Ground which had more than 10 Lakh people attending it.

The CPI(M) has stated that it will support a uniform civil code, but one must earn the trust of the communities that live under it, a trust that the BJP has never sought to earn.

And yet in the election Manifesto that the BJP released, they have the temerity to promise a uniform civil code. In the BJP’s hands, this is not a bill that promises equal rights for women but merely yet another stick to beat Muslims with. The CPI(M) has stated that it will support a uniform civil code, but one must earn the trust of the communities that live under it, a trust that the BJP has never sought to earn.

‘Jyoti Basu, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal,’ recall the Sikhs in Kolkata, ‘placed Kolkata under curfew, and his party supporters were seen patrolling Sikh-dominated areas to prevent violence perpetrated by the Congress goons.’

Not to mention the innumerable riots the BJP and the Congress are involved with, CPI(M) was and still is the reckoning force which has fought communalism with all it’s power. Not one riot was reported during the Left Front’s 34 year rule in Bengal or the LDF’s rule in Kerala and Tripura. In 1984, when Delhi was burning with Anti-Sikh riots, Kolkata, which had the second highest Sikh population after Punjab had just ten deaths reported. ‘Jyoti Basu, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal,’ recall the Sikhs in Kolkata, ‘placed Kolkata under curfew, and his party supporters were seen patrolling Sikh-dominated areas to prevent violence perpetrated by the Congress goons.’ Such is the commitment of the disciplined cadre of the Left to safeguard Secularism till their last breath.

The Muslim question

As the country, at least a section of it, is being entrapped in the communal clutches of a party which wants to build a Ram Mandir , within constitutional means, the same means that were used to desecrate Babri Masjid, one can’t help but admire the CPI(M) manifesto for the measures it promises for the empowerment of the Muslim community. Amendment of the draconian provisions of UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act), whose primary utility till now has been to trample upon the non-conformist voices by branding them as terrorists, rehabilitation of the people falsely implicated, fast track courts to ensure speedy justice are effective measures to curb the unlawful detention of scores of Muslims. Implementing Sachar commission and Ranganath Mishra commission recommendations, which till now have received a nominal treatment, is a big step forward in terms of alleviating the miserable conditions of the minority community and ensuring their representation in all sectors of the government. One thing, though, that should have been addressed is the issue of Dalit Muslims-granting SC status that has been denied to them. I think, the choice is clear, at least I hope it is, as far as the minority community is concerned.

Pro-people agitations are the oxygen for Left parties

While it is the Ambani’s and Adani’s for the Congress and the BJP, it’s with the small yet precious contributions of Daily wage labourers and contributions from individuals that the Left parties run their campaign with. Strongly opposed to the corporate funding and completely blacked out by the Corporate Media, the Left goes back to the traditional door-to-door campaigning in places where it had led significant pro-people agitations and movements. With Tripura, Kerala and West Bengal playing a crucial role for the Left, the Left is also trying to convert the mass agitations in pockets of Tamil Nadu (where it has led Dalit movements against untouchability and in support of the fishing community), Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar (where it led Land Struggles), Haryana and Himachal Pradesh into electoral success. The working class, has always been and will be the backbone for the Left Front.

Thousands of workers from all across India marched towards parliament on Thursday, demanding decent wages, implementation of labour laws and containing price rise. At the call of 11 central trade unions (Led by CITU and AITUC) the mammoth demonstration warned the government to end inaction and indifference to workers’ demands

Thousands of workers from all across India marched towards parliament on Thursday, demanding decent wages, implementation of labour laws and containing price rise. At the call of 11 central trade unions (Led by CITU and AITUC) the mammoth demonstration warned the government to end inaction and indifference to workers’ demands

Role of Communists and Left in the Policy matters

The policy trajectory of UPA-1, which survived for four years with the support of the Left makes clear the crucial role played by the Left in formulation of path-breaking policies like the NREGA, RTI and the Forest Rights act, to name a few.

“The role of the Left parties in India’s polity cannot be understood merely in terms of electoral politics. The policy formulations and interventions that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its associates in the Left Front initiate and advance as well as the political values they advocate make a significant contribution to the overall progress of the Indian people. This too needs to be kept in perspective while seeking to understand Left politics in India,” said Harkishan Singh Surjeet, former General Secretary of the CPI(M). The policy trajectory of UPA-1, which survived for four years with the support of the Left makes clear the crucial role played by the Left in formulation of path-breaking policies like the NREGA, RTI and the Forest Rights act, to name a few. While it is a failure of the Left to communicate the same to the people, the fact that they are responsible for such legislations and schemes can’t be ignored.

You will rarely see MP’s from Kerala (MB Rajesh and MP Achuthan) fighting for the rights of the North East people in Delhi and subsequently getting arrested.

To put it short, it is only the Left which can counter the advancing fascist, communal BJP and the corrupt, paralysed Congress. Sending people who have been involved in pro-people struggles and agitations is the need of the hour, through which we can assure that the Govt. doesn’t serve the rich and the powerful, but will instead serve the cause of the oppressed and the discriminated. You will rarely see MP’s from Kerala (MB Rajesh and MP Achuthan) fighting for the rights of the North East people in Delhi and subsequently getting arrested.

Every person standing on the symbol of Sickle and Hammer and campaigning with a Red Flag has a baggage of experience with people’s struggles on their back unlike the bourgeois parties which field Bollywood stars, Corporate World Leaders, and Sportspersons.

This is just a single example amongst infinitely many others where the Left parties have stood for the oppressed and the discriminated. Every person standing on the symbol of Sickle and Hammer and campaigning with a Red Flag has a baggage of experience with people’s struggles on their back unlike the bourgeois parties which field Bollywood stars, Corporate World Leaders, and Sportspersons. With an inclusive economic policy, an independent foreign policy, a sense of Social Justice and liberal understanding of human rights and civil liberties in it’s Manifesto, the Left is going to be a key player in the aftermath of the elections, both policy wise and electoral wise. For a secular and democratic alternative, we need to strengthen the Left. Having such a good track record, the Left will be the best choice for people to go and vote for.

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