The message from the aam aadmi

Vote against ideological rigidities, misgovernance


Ajay Singh | May 18, 2011

It may be debatable if there will ever be an end of history as Francis Fukuyama had predicted. But it seems quite certain, if one looks at the recent assembly elections results, that there will be an end of ideological rigidity in Indian politics. Communists have paid the price of upholding ideological purity which is devoid of pragmatism and out of sync with social evolution.

The decimation of the Leftist bastion in West Bengal after over 34 years by an unreliable, temperamental but unsullied Mamata Banerjee is a testimony to people’s unwillingness to be beholden to any ideology.

It will be instructive in this context to recall the first warning signal given by India’s leading Marxist Jyoti Basu in 1996. When Basu was all set to take over as the country’s first Marxist prime minister, Prakash Karat led hardliners in the politburo and thwarted the move. A chagrined Basu later called it “historic blunder” by the Left to give up the opportunity to have its first prime minister in 1996.

Basu may not be as great a scholar of Marxist theology as his younger colleague Prakash Karat is, but he was a practising Marxist who dominated West Bengal politics like a colossus for decades. But his words of caution were dismissed as the anguish of an old man.

It would not be wrong to attribute the failures of Kerala to these hardliners who have created a rift within the state’s party unit. The denial of assembly ticket to outgoing chief minister VS Achutanandan before allowing him to lead the campaign was yet another example of the CPI-M leadership’s inability to reconcile realpolitic with ideological rigidities.

Indeed, the biggest story of the state assembly elections is an unambiguous message by the electorate to political parties that it would be wrong to take voters for granted. Marxists are not the only one who paid price for entertaining this arrogance for too long. In Tamil Nadu, DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi faced a total rout as he seemed to be running a family fiefdom in the state. Though the stalwart of the Dravidian movement, Karunanidhi allowed himself to be surrounded by family members and rent-seekers who used politics to bolster their economics. With the 2G scam blowing in his face, Karunanidhi appeared to be a poor parody of his former self.

Given the limited political choices available to the Tamil Nadu electorate, people opted for Jayalalithaa who does not have an illustrious track record in power. But the fact that people can throw a non-performing and careless government out of power may prove to be enough dose for course-correction in future. In Tamil Nadu elections, though the Congress tried to maintain its distinct identity from its alliance partner DMK, it could not evade the people’s wrath.

Contrast this trend with West Bengal, where people overwhelmingly voted for the Congress as it accrued the goodwill of Mamata Banerjee. Once again, people were pinning hopes on an alternative which is yet to be tested and tried and backed allies as well. In fact, the election results have provided the Congress many reasons to rejoice. In Assam, the party won the third consecutive term under Tarun Gogoi, a maverick regional leader who maintains a low profile while sustaining his image of a performer.

On the face of it, there is an underlying message in the state assembly elections that even a long stint in power by a party cannot ensure its survival if it does not stand up to people’s aspirations. This message is in consonance with a similar message that emanated from the Bihar assembly elections. Similarly, a political party seeking to exploit gullibility of voters by offering false promises or money would meet its nemesis sooner than later as voters are no longer politically naïve. But the fact that voters have shown pathological aversion to ideological rigidity is not only telling on the Left. The BJP, which represents the rightist ideology, is also at the receiving end. In Assam, the party has lost ground while its position remained untenable in three crucial states – West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Ironically, despite the fate of the Left under Karat’s leadership, this will give an opportunity to the RSS hardliners to cry for course correction in the BJP and adhere to ideological purities .



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