A Response to Com Prakash Karat’s clarification on CPI(M)’s support for Pranab Mukherjee

Sandeep Singh is former President of JNU Students’ Union and National President of AISA, a Left-wing student organization. He can be contacted at sandeep.aisa@gmail.com.

Sandeep Singh

After much debate in left-democratic section and much uproar within the party on the issue of party’s support to Congress Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee, which went on to the resignation and subsequent expulsion of a prominent young leader of the party, the CPI(M) general secretary came up with a detailed, argued response. But unfortunately, his response just aggravated the fissure. In his effort to defend the party position he has argued (not surprisingly) from a typical social-democratic viewpoint and given many chances to expose some of the typical CPI (M)’s style opportunistic arguments, which some of them I’m trying to discuss here.   

He rightly points out that “this election is not to be seen as just a contest between these two candidates. Beneath the surface are stirring and a churning process that presage a political realignment”. Correct comrade, but where are you in this political realignment?

‘Keeping BJP out of power’ (your old rhetoric for opportunistic alliances with the Congress on previous occasions) and ‘keeping the office of the constitutional head away from BJP’ (the new, but not that new rhetoric) doesn’t hold any water because the much used ‘threat’ of BJP coming to the power or BJP capturing the office of the head of the state does not exist at this juncture. As the realignment of ruling class parties unfolds, the victory of Pranab Mukherjee seems very clear, and even you have indicated as much, though obliquely. 

So comrade, when even without your support, the Congress candidate seems to have a clear cut edge, why you are falling in line with them?

 Com. Karat has two answers to this question. First, “At national level abstention would amount to the party withdrawing from the fray. It would blunt the intervention of the party in the developing political scenario” (!! Maybe he wants to be little sarcastic!) And secondly “The CPI(M) has also taken into account the fact that a number of non-UPA parties have announced support for Pranab Mukherjee. They include the Samajwadi Party, the BSP, the JD(S) and the JD(U)”.

Now the trajectory of argument is complete!  So the party has summarized few lessons from it.   These elections are instances of unfolding potential restructuring of the political formations in a new situation.

Prakash Karat/ Image: Soman/2005

Lesson no 1- CPI (M) cannot afford to remain outside of this restructuring of forces, (read bourgeois forces) even at the cost of its image, its members, and Left unity.  Why? Why, as Com. Karat argues, because they have to fight TMC in Bengal (effortlessly I remember Kautilya, ‘enemy of the enemy is a potential friend’)! Because, the SP, BSP, JD(U), JD(S), Shiv Sena are intervening in this churning with their characteristic approach, so CPI(M) too must do the same, in a way that is indistinguishable from the other bourgeois and right-wing parties! 

Lesson no 2- This would in effect increase or sustain party strength to ‘intervene in developing political scenario’. So the polit bureau of the largest communist party of the country, reportedly with the casting vote of the Comrade GS, decided to choose the path of their old friends (Com. Karat may not like to remember the role and position of the SP, BSP, JD(S) and so on at the time of Indo-US Nuke deal, but that is another story).

And here comes Lesson no 3- Support for congress candidate by various regional parties does not mean that congress is strong, instead it shows congress’s dependency on these forces. In effect this is a positive trend of increasing strength of regional parties ‘to deal with congress in equal terms’! Very fine comrade! SP and BSP may have to deal with the Congress with the issues of corruption and pending CBI inquiries, JD (U) may have to deal with increasing loot of poor’s fund, Shiv Sena may have to deal with the downplaying with the Justice Sri Krishna Committee report on Mumbai riots BUT comrade what do you have to deal with the Congress in ‘equal terms’ except struggle?! Or, here too, do you apply the ‘unity and struggle’ principle with them?  Is it not correct that whatever pressure or in your terms ‘dealing’ you may have on Congress is depend on popular mass political movement and left assertion as an independent force of the fighting masses? Or it is based on the ‘give and take’ policy of bankrupt bourgeois parties? We’re a little confused!  

Though further he says “the party will seek to cooperate with non-Congress secular parties on the issues and initiate joint movements and struggles on people’s issues.” But what his party does in reality is to join this bandwagon in order to choose one of the most notorious advocate of neo-liberalism as the president of the country! Perhaps he and his party do not think presidential elections are also a concern of Indian people though cursorily he claims so.

The issue here is not ‘equidistance,’ or time to time strategic ‘closeness’ with one bourgeois party or other. The issue is of a principled approach. The issue is how to reassert a Left challenge as a whole against this corrupt political regime, which he himself rightly observed is in under crisis (from different corners). The issue is how to realign, not the parties of ruling spectrum but the masses of the people at the ground, towards a genuine Left, democratic, revolutionary agenda and to expose the bourgeois regime using every occasion, every opportunity. I think this is the real task of any genuine and honest left force. But unfortunately, the typical to social-democratic style of revisionist politics practiced by Comrade Karat and his party is willing to surrender all the occasions to strike at and create any friction (temporary or permanent) in this decadent bourgeois politics.

US President George W. Bush with India’s Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee. Image: Eric Draper/24 March 2008

Defending CPI (M)’s support to Pranab instead of abstention, Comrade Karat has tried to argue that party should “utilize the conflicts and fissures within the ruling alliance between the bourgeois parties. Abstention at this juncture will not help in this regard.” So in his words the CPI (M)’s support to Pranab in effect amounts to utilize the ‘conflicts and fissures’ between Congress and TMC! But how? In what way? It is not explained.

It has been said in many quarters that a kind of ‘Bengali sentiment’ or ‘people’s sentiment for Pranab’ is prevailing in all the parties of Bengal and Bengali people! I wonder if this is the ‘conflict’ Comrade Karat is trying to ‘utilize’ and fortunately, adamant Mamata is not getting this point. But as one of your trusted lieutenant (till the other day) comrade chosen to point out  “As for MLAs and MPs from Bengal being obligated to support a Bengali for the Presidential post because of ‘public sentiment’, this sounds eerily similar to Shiv Sena or Amra Bangali kind of politics. Historically, the working people of Bengal have been wise enough to see through such gimmickries and ask what politics the Bengali in question stands for? That is why Mr. Mukherjee could win his first election from West Bengal only in 2004 though being in active politics since the late 1960s.” 

Who is correct? Someone has to answer!

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