Forging alliances

Kushal Jeena, Hardnews

The main strategy of the Left parties for the next-year general elections would be to focus on the creation of a third alternative to defeat other two political formation consist of BJP-led NDA and Congress-led UPA.

"Our main strategy for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls would be putting up a third alternative of Left and non-BJP, non-Congress secular parties, which would defeat both the combination," Atul Kumar Anjan, Secretary of the Communist Party of India told Hardnews.

The leaders of the Left parties are currently engaged in talks with the parties like TDP, AIDMK, TRS, Praja Rajyam and other smaller regional parties to put up a new front. They have already forged a pre-poll electoral alliance with TDP and TRS in Andhra Pradesh and would be fighting next Lok Sabha elections jointly.

The general secretaries of the CPI and CPI (M) Prakash Kart and AB Bardhan respectively have met AIDMK chief Jayalalitha twice in the recent past. The two sides have agreed to form a pre-poll alliance in Tamil Nadu. In the north Left parties are wooing BSP, which is in power in India's most populist state of Uttar Pradesh. Almost all top leaders of the Left parties had held several rounds of talks with BSP chief and UP chief minister Mayawati.

However, Left parties have so far failed to bring Mayawati on board the yet to come up third front as she wanted to be projected as its prime ministerial candidate. The CPI (M), leader of the Leftists said they have no objection in promoting her as she would be the first dalit prime minister of the country. The other constituents of the third front like Telugu Desam Party and AIDMK have raised objection to her demand arguing such a decision could only be taken after the elections.

The central committee of the CPI (M), which is currently in session in Kochi, has endorsed the party strategy to form a third front to fight Lok Sabha polls under its banner. The three-day meeting began deliberations on the strategy for the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Buoyed by its successful talks with the TDP and the AIDMK, the party wants to expand the third alternative by including more parties. The party has already finalised seat sharing with the TDP, AIADMK and JD(S). The Left parties have to work out an arrangement with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh.

"We (CPM-BSP) will jointly approach the people on many issues. But on seat proposal or questions of any seat adjustment, an understanding on that agenda has not begun. But the process is on. We think there is still six more months," said Sitaram Yechury, CPM Politburo member to Hardnews.

There seem differences in the Left parties over the projection of Mayawati as third front's prime ministerial candidate. The CPI is averse to the move saying it would bring the front at par with the BJP and NDA. Bardhan has of late openly expressed his opposition to the move. The two other constituents of the Left Front Forward Bloc and RSP have also their reservation to the initiative led by Karat, who was the first person to hold a breakfast meeting with Mayawati in Delhi two months back.

"We don't go by personalities, individuals or other categories. We go by policies. It's on these policies that we decide our understanding and alliances," Atul Anjan told Hardnews.

The CPI has taken this attend as it has entered into an alliance with TDP, which was the first party to oppose Mayawati's projection. It was one of the conditions of the TDP before the party inked a poll pact with CPI. The TDP chief and former AP chief minister Chandrababu Naidu is oppose to the move because he himself wanted to be projected as the next prime minister. Precisely, for that reason he wants the subject to be left in the open.

By setting up a formidable third alternative ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Left parties want to block the attempts of Congress and BJP to expand their respective coalitions. The Communist leaders are hopeful that their strategy will come good in the post-election scenario when every single party will count.

Why the Left parties are very keen on having a third political formation put in place simply because after snapping ties with the UPA, they are now feeling isolated in the national political scene. Besides, they are striving for this as it is the only strategy, which could fetch them some seats in the states other than West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, where they are in power.

The mass support of the Left parties has eroded in these three states following withdrawal of support from the Congress-led UPA government on the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement, which almost all believe could not be made an election plank. The Left parties want to fill this gap by striking an electoral pact with secular parties, which are not part of the either formation.

Moreover, the Communists have always won seats in states other than they ruled with the help of other parties. For example in Andhra Pradesh CPI won one Lok Sabha seat and CPI (M) bagged two as they were in alliance with the Congress last time. After the emergence of pro-OBC parties in Bihar, the CPI, which once had as many as 13 seats from the states, has failed to win even a single seat for over two decades because both RJD and JD (U) have virtually eaten out its mass base.

The Left parties are planning to field more and more candidates in states like UP, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Orissa to increase their share of votes. The CPI is already under scanner of the Election Commission as the party has reduced its share of votes and stands for loosing its status of a national party.

According to a senior CPI leader the party has decided to work towards rebuilding its mass base in states like Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Orissa where in the past it had an influential strength. The party had one MP from Chhattishgarh few years back. The then MP Mahindra Karma of CPI, who later switched over to Congress is the father of Salwa Judum, an anti-Maoist campaign led by local tribal people. The CPI had two law makers in the past from Orissa. It also had two legislators from Uttarakhand region of erstwhile Uttar Pradesh.

However, gaining some seats from BSP under an electoral arrangement in UP seems elusive for the two major Communist parties as Mayawati has refused to oblige them, which led to the differences between CPI and CPI (M). The CPI that had an influential support base in eastern UP, had asked for four Lok Sabha seats, which were rejected by Mayawati on the ground that party presently has no base in the region.

The CPI had retained twice Faizabad Lok Sabha seats even when the Ram temple agitation was on its peak. It had also won Ghosi Lok Sabha seat more than thrice and Banda parliamentary constituency in Bundelkhand region. The party lost all these seats either to SP or BSP as its winning candidates Mitrasen Yadav and Ramsajivan shifted their loyalties to SP and BSP.

Even if the attempts of the Leftists bear fruit and a third political formation comes up, it would not going to compensate the losses, the Left parties are bound to suffer in West Bengal and Kerala because of undeclared support to Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee by the Congress in West Bengal and growing infighting with the Marxist leaders and cadres in southern Kerala. Both the government and party are at loggerhead in the state. Some pollsters have already predicted a virtual wipe out of Marxists in Kerala.

Besides, the emergence of a non-NDA and non-UPA alliance could help Left parties bring back in the reckoning in the national political arena. Another reason for the Leftists to work hard for the formation of a new front is an attempt to escape from an embarrassment in the post poll scenario in which the verdict of 14 Lok Sabha is supposed to be repeated with some minor changes.

In that case the Left parties would be left with no option than to again extend support to the UPA to prevent BJP-led NDA coming back to power with Advani at the helm of affairs. The Left particularly the CPI (M) is working overtime to avert such a situation as it would amount to a moral defeat of the party and in particular of its general secretary Prakash Karat and a win-win situation for Congress that put its government at stake and eventually saved it with the support of the SP.