Left in the lurch

While political observers are now keen to know which way presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee’s detractors, like Nitish Kumar or Mamata Banerjee will decide go on the day of the presidential elections, another drama pertaining to the same election is unfolding amongst the rank and file of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the latest being the sacking of the SFI JNU unit.

Reportedly a younger lot in the CPM and its student wing, the SFI, are extremely unhappy with the decision of CPI(M)’s central leadership to endorse Pranab Mukherjee as a presidential candiadte. The central leadership had reasoned that among the candidates in the fray, Mukherjee was the one with the widest acceptance and CPI(M) would like to go with that sentiment. Those who have been observing the CPI(M) for a long time know that the Party has never been comfortable with populist politics and there must have been strong reason as to why it decided to go with a ‘popular choice’. The CPM is going through an unprecedented phase of having to redefine its political relevance across India and across the Indian social classes and in that climate, the choice of Mukherjee was thought to be pragmatic rather than proselytising. CPM’s lack of understanding of popular mood and it’s over the top theorising of its own politics has been a standing joke of mainstream political commentary. In those circles at least the pragmatic choice of Mukherjee was not only welcomed but seen as a turn of CPI(M) not only towards an honest self-appraisal but also a degree of self-preservation.

In this situation first came the resignation of Prosenjit Bose, one of its more prominent younger members who was also the face of CPI(M) in television for some time now. In his resignation later, which was made public, Bose accused of the central leadership of a series faulty decisions that have severely compromised the ‘hallowed’ potion of the Left in the Indian political imagination and hence found it unfit to stay in the party any longer. He was promptly sacked.

The SFI-JNU unit last week had protested on similar lines and took a resolution that they would oppose the decision of their ‘mother’ party. No wonder the mother party took strong exception to the rebellion and the Delhi unit of SFI 'voted' out four senior members and the university unit and disbanded the unit.

JNU was one of the few places and spaces where politics is still serious business. The SFI’s all India character is largely dependent on its JNU unit, which will suffer hugely. But the bigger concern here is different. Is the party’s younger lot even more orthodox than its central leadership? Do they seriously believe that there is space for Left democratic practice in India that continues to be arrogant, navel-gazing and atavistic? If yes, then CPI(M) is in serious trouble.
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