The Left Parties in Uttar Pradesh have been reduced to the status of ‘also ran,’ and that is not going to change in the foreseeable future, reports Rajendra Kumar from Lucknow
The Left parties who ushered in a change in the political climate of the country have seen their once fertile land in Uttar Pradesh shrink to oblivion. The parties that once raised the banner against the feudal system in the state, have seen their own house crumble in front of them. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India have both been marginalised in the politics of the State. The process started some 25 years ago and has intensified to a point that not only have they been marginalised, but they have also been rendered irrelevant. This to an extent where no political party is willing to take them on their bandwagon. Nitish Kumar, who is cobbling up an alliance to bring all secular parties together to take on BJP has also ignored them. These parties have failed to open an account in as many as six of the past Lok Sabha elections. The last time a Left MP was elected was in 1991 when Vishwanath Shastri from CPI got elected from the Gazipur seat. The liberalisation that followed, made it difficult for these parties to remain relevant. This, combined with the Mandal-Kamandal politics, also affected them in the local elections as they failed to return even one MLA in both the 2007 and 2012 Assembly Polls. But this has not stopped either CPI or CPM from fighting elections. Both these parties still contest from some seats, fully aware of their negligible chances of winning. This is more an act to make their ideological presence felt. Both parties will field some candidates in the next assembly polls too, but none of the leaders are willing to stick their necks out and commit if they have any chance of winning. Political pundits maintain that the parties have lost their relevance in every possible way. But it was not like this always. Once, in the same state of Uttar Pradesh, leaders like Jharkhande Rai and Saryu Pandey had prepared fertile grounds for the party and their ideology to flourish. But since then, the party has lost capable leaders who could lead them in any meaningful ways. Journalist and analyst Anshuman Shukla, who keeps an eye on Left politics, says, “The parties had started well. In the first election in 1951, although parties like CPI, Forward Block and RSP could not perform well numerically, they had their presence felt in a big way. Jharkhande Rai won from Ghosi West seat then; the lone candidate among the nine fielded by the party. CPI went on to win nine seats in the next elections in1957. Saryu Pandey won the Mohammadabad set then. It also brought another leader Udal who went on to win the elections nine times in a row. The number for CPI increased to 14 in 1962, and remained stagnant at 14 in 1967. But CPM won a lone seat in its debut election. They went on to win 18 seats once, but then the downfall started and they are now reduced to zero, especially following the Mandal-Kamandal politics of late 80s and early 90s.” Saidpur and Gazipur were Left’s bastion in Lok Sabha where leaders like Saryu Pandey and Vishwanath Shastri continued to win elections. Ghosi seat also saw repeated triumphs. Yet, now, CPI’s Atul Kumar Anjan continues to fight from this seat time and again but without any success. He has done well for himself inside the party though. The Left continued to win a few seats here and there. For example Mitrasen Yadav won the Faizabad seat in 1989, Satya Narayan Singh won the Varanasi seat in 1967, Jogeshwar Yadav and EamJeevan Singh won from Banda in 1967 and 1989 respectively, Latafat Ali Khan and Vijay Pal Singh from Muzaffarnagar in 1967 and 1971 respectively and Subhashini Ali from Kanpur in 1989. “The Mandal-Kamandal politics of late 80s and early 90s heavily harmed Left politics in the state. While we were trying to recover from that, caste based identity politics became a vogue in the state; and from that, we could never recover,” says Atul Anjan. When posed with a question about why the Left is not able to raise issues like poverty, disparity and feudal atrocities, which Uttar Pradesh is still reeling under, in any meaningful way, he adds, “We have leaders who come from the mass movement. But the politics of this time prefers to look towards leaders who are borne out of neo-liberal policies.” Subhashini Ali is more candid in explaining the demise of the Left in the state. “The Left politics depend on class based unity. However, the identity politics of Samajwadi party and BSP have managed to destroy that class based unity. Every case is looking for its own benefits. This is bound to dent the mass base of Left Parties. While the Left never had widespread presence in Uttar Pradesh, it had managed to create pockets of influences in Poorvanchal and Bundelkhand once. Those days are behind us now,” she explains. Ashok Mishra, member of the Central Committee of CPM, is of a similar opinion. He insists that SP, BSP, BJP and Congress have a very different style of functioning. Since the Left parties cannot cope up with such a style of functioning, they have been swept to the side. “While our organisation is as active as ever, we have lost mass support. We used to work among Dalits and OBCs once. These groups have chosen to shift to other parties. The polarisation, which was a result of the Ayodhya movement, further made it difficult for us,” he added to good measure. Other leaders insist that there is no apparent leadership crisis in the parties, but fail to come up with a logical plan to revive the fortune of the parties. While the Left Parties are yet to come up with a strategy to join forces, they also have difficulty in finding a charismatic leader in the state. The politics of our times depends on a charismatic face to lead the campaign, the absence of which proves to be very detrimental in the electoral politics. Says Dr A. K Verma, a political scientist with Christ Church College, Kanpur, “Leaders like Jharkhande Rai and Saryu Pandey commanded personal respect among the masses. This was made possible because of their personal unblemished image. And that, in turn, helped the Left parties in the state. The day the Left manages to find similar charismatic faces, it will again start to find traction in the electoral politics of the state.” But political analyst Professor Ashutosh Mishra looks less optimistic. “The Left’s entire politics is based on fighting caste, crime, corruption and communalism. It is however ironical that these issues in fact drive politics these days. So there’s a dichotomy there. Naturally, the Left parties are lagging behind. The parties failed to make changes inside the organisation and that made it easier for the other parties to erode their base massively. Whatever was left was gobbled up by the Peace Party and Apna Dal,” he explains. The role of the Left parties in Uttar Pradesh is that of an ‘also ran’. The entire process is just to make their ideological presence felt. What is sure is that this is not going to change anytime soon.