New Delhi, May 03: The Left rewrote history in Kerala on Sunday by becoming the first government to get a second term in four decades but its fortunes fell to a historic low in West Bengal where it failed to bag even one seat, resulting in its complete decimation in a state it once ruled for over three decades.
The Left’s fall in Bengal was a sharp one. It not only drew a blank in the 2019 national elections but lost its traditional supporters to the BJP, as conceded by its own leaders. Matters came to such a pass that the 2021 assembly polls became a bipolar contest between the BJP and the TMC, with the CPI(M), CPI and the Congress playing in the background.
The CPI(M) in a politburo statement said the results of the five assembly polls were a resounding defeat for the BJP but shed very little light on its own losses.
“The BJP suffered a severe setback despite its money power and manipulations in West Bengal. The people of Bengal have very clearly rejected the ideology of communal polarisation.
“The performance of the Sanjukta Morcha and the Left has been very disappointing. People’s urge to defeat the BJP led to a sharp polarisation squeezing out the Sanjukta Morcha. A self-critical review of these results will be undertaken by the party to draw needed lessons,” it said.
In the run-up to the assembly polls, the Left continued to cut a sorry figure in Bengal. Its vote share fell to 40 per cent in 2011 from 50 per cent in 2006. It plunged further to 26 per cent in the 2016 assembly polls.
While questions and murmurs within the party remained about partnering with the Congress, which had little or no presence on the ground in the state, senior leaders of the party weighed in and chose to ally with them. Many even questioned the logic of partnering with the party which fails to even transfer votes to its allies.
“In Bengal, the Left will have to do a serious review of its political line and assessment of its situation, on how and why the bipolar situation was allowed to emerge. Why did we lose our grip and why was BJP allowed a foothold,” said CPI general secretary D Raja.
When asked if their choice of ally in Bengal let them down, Raja said that the post- election introspection will lead to a “churning” where all these questions would be addressed.
However, a cause of concern is that despite the Left’s efforts to change — shedding its sombre image by releasing videos on social media, putting up young candidates and even stitching an alliance with the Furfura Sharif cleric Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front (ISF) to dent the TMC’s Muslim votebank — nothing seems to have worked.
In Kerala though, well laid out plans worked seamlessly. Pinarayi Vijayan, the 76-year-old CPI(M) leader, became the third chief minister in Kerala’s history to be re-elected and the first to continue in office after completing a full term. The LDF’s win is just the second instance of a ruling front receiving consecutive terms.
The LDF is expected to finish between 95 and 100 seats, eclipsing its 2016 tally of 91 seats.
“We have closed the account that the BJP opened in the Kerala assembly in 2016 election. Kerala has become the only assembly in India that has no representative from the BJP. Kerala will remain the citadel of secularism in the country,” said CPI(M) leader Thomas Isaac on Twitter.
Fighting on the plank of development, the LDF won both hearts and votes because of its apt handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The people of Kerala have voted on the performance of the incumbent government, the alternative policies pursued, the manner in which all the natural calamities were tackled, the pandemic and its fall out were handled, welfare measures undertaken and for safeguarding the secular, democratic, harmonious character of Kerala society.” the CPI(M) politburo said in a statement.
“Kerala and Tamil Nadu deserve congratulations for giving a befitting reply to the BJP and those who aligned with the BJP. The BJP is a party that believes in imposing a monolithic culture. In Kerala, people have gone with the LDF for its performance. The UDF needs to seriously introspect. Instead of fighting the BJP they were fighting us,” Raja said.
The CPI(M) politburo’s statement also said that the party considers the results of the five assembly polls to be collectively a “severe setback for the BJP” with political parties opposed to the saffron party winning in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“Overall, these results are a severe setback for the BJP. Despite all its efforts to rouse communal feelings, of spending huge amounts of money, manipulating the system and the electoral apparatus, they failed to elicit people’s support.
“These results must further strengthen the people’s movements and struggles in the country to safeguard the secular, democratic character of the Indian Republic and for vastly improving the living conditions of the people,” the party said.
Till late evening, the CPI had got 0.21 per cent of the votes, while CPI(M) got 4.62 per cent and CPI(ML) only 0.03 per cent of the votes. The Congress bagged only 3.02 per cent of the votes. On the other hand, the BJP managed to get 38.07 per cent votes, while the TMC bagged 47.98 per cent of votes in Bengal.