Thiruvananthapuram: The Left will be a nominal presence in the next Lok Sabha, in all likelihood.
The reason is pure and simple. The resounding victory of the Congress in Karnataka has come as a morale booster for the party in Kerala, the only state where the Left combine, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), (CPI-M) matters.
In the recently held Karnataka assembly elections, the Left contested a few seats in alliance with the Janata Dal (S) (JD-S) and lost handsomely, which is not a big story.
True, the Left’s national leaders have joined other opposition parties in hailing the Congress’s southern triumph as the beginning of the downfall of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A CPI-M statement said, “this defeat is the result of the gross misrule and corruption of the BJP government, and it shows the rejection of the virulent communal propaganda conducted during the campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.”
As a matter of political courtesy, Kerala CPI(M) leadership too voiced relief that the entire south India is now free of the BJP rule.
But as the details boil down to realities, leaders of the CPI(M) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) knew pretty well that a resurgent Congress would only mar the Left’s chances of notching up a decent tally in the next Lok Sabha.
In 2019, the Left Democratic Front (LDF), as the left mainstream Left alliance led by the CPI(M) is known, was routed in Kerala as the United Democratic Front (UDF) headed by the Congress swept the Lok Sabha polls bagging 19 of the 20 seats up for grabs.
The LDF, however, made a spectacular comeback in 2021 assembly polls, bucking the decades old trend of the two rival coalitions alternating in power. This indicates that large sections of the electorate make different choices in assembly and parliament elections in the state.
The 2021 defeat pushed the UDF, especially the Congress, into a grim crisis. A leadership change that followed forced senior leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala to take a backseat. Hardliner K Sudhakaran was made the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president and multi-term legislator V D Satheesan became the opposition leader.
But both have tended to pull in different directions, triggering a flare-up in factionalism in the party.
The partners in the UDF, especially the key ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), did not often hide their frustration over the state of affairs in the UDF, and the Congress’s failure to lead the coalition from the front.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahu Gandhi earlier this year infused some fresh energy into the Congress ranks. But the Karnataka election outcome has administered a big dose of hope and sense of purpose in the UDF as a whole.
The political message from the neighbouring state is loud and clear. Congress alone can unite all those who are passionately opposed to the BJP, where they are in direct combat. This is especially true of a state like Kerala where Muslim and Christian minorities together account for nearly half the electorate. Congress naturally comes as the ‘first and best’ choice for them, though the BJP does not count much in the state.
This new found enthusiasm is apparent from the reactions not only of the IUML but also most of the Muslim outfits that work outside the periphery of electoral politics.
The BJP’s concerted efforts to reach out to the Christians in Kerala have failed to achieve desired results. Widespread violence in Manipur, of which the tribal Christian communities are alleged to be the targets, has further dashed the BJP’s hopes of bridging bridges with the Christians in Kerala.
Going by history, Congress is expected to be taken as an ideal choice by a majority of the Christians too. Congress also stands the chance of winning back a good chunk of the Hindu votes it lost to the BJP over the years. All these could work together in favour of the UDF in parliamentary elections.
Though the Left too is not wanting in its anti-BJP rhetoric, large sections of minorities would prefer to go by the Congress as a national force that directly confronts the BJP across the country.
The irony of the situation, in a broad sense, is that the Left shares much of the Congress’ outlook that unseating the BJP is the prime task. Despite this, all that the Left could hope for is a couple of seats in the lower house of parliament, thanks to the generosity of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu.