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Thorns in opposition unity – Resurgent Congress to squeeze the Left

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Thiruvananthapuram: The politics of opposition unity is steeped in irony, when tested against the ground realities.

A classic case is the Congress-Left equations. The story is simple. The Left was the first among the opposition parties to rush offering unstinted support to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi (RG) when he was divested of his parliamentary mandate, after the Surat court ruling in the now famous defamation case.

Since then, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) leaders, have raised the pitch for strengthening the unity of people against the ‘fascist, authoritarian’ Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime at the Centre. But no matter how earnestly the leaders share common concerns, the Left and the Congress are bound to battle it out between them for a clutch of Lok Sabha seats in Kerala in 2024 general elections.

Imagine a scenario of RG’s disqualification prolonging and the Election Commission of India (ECI) ordering a by-poll in Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, which he won with a huge margin in 2019. Then too, the Left would be forced to field a candidate and take on the Congress nominee in all seriousness. Like any other election in Kerala’s hyperactive political ecosystem, there would be usual acrimony between the two.

Given the prevailing situation, Kerala is the only state from where the Left, especially its principal unit CPI(M), can expect to win a few seats in the lower house of parliament. Kerala is also a state where the resurgent congress would perform well. Obviously, the two sides would be forced to take tenaciously to each other in Kerala. Ironically, the narrative around which each side would be running its campaign would be that one is better positioned than the other in bringing an end to the BJP rule.

The Congress would hold that it alone has the national presence to take on the BJP. The Left would be reiterating its time-worn rhetoric that it alone fights the Hindutva forces on a firm ideological platform. 

There lies the contradiction inherent in the Left-Congress bonhomie. This dichotomy is also true in many other states where the regional parties are in power. The Congress has to either accept its minor role in an anti-BJP alliance or fight and lose as a third force in these states. This is how most regional parties, including the Left, have ruled out the possibility of emergence of even a semblance of a pre-poll common front of non-BJP forces. They are pinning their hope on emergence of a post-poll alternative to the BJP by aggregating the seats they would win from around the country.  

But the Left is not in a position to even draw some solace from such a possibility. The Congress, along with its United Democratic Front (UDF) snatched 19 of the 20 LS seats in Kerala in 2019. If the alliance repeats the same, the Left would again have only a nominal presence in the next parliament as well. This would mean the Left’s would be a feeble presence in the future politics of the country. 

The Congress in Kerala had been passing through a hard time in Kerala after the back-to-back defeat in assembly polls in 2021. The state unit had been riddled with multiple factions. The Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) of Rahul Gandhi, however, infused some energy in an otherwise demoralized rank and file. The developments centering his disqualification from parliament, however, has imparted a fresh enthusiasm in all tiers of the party. It has imparted a new sense of purpose and a feeling that all is not lost.

The key UDF partners like Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) too share this new found enthusiasm. This has been evident from the demonstrations the Congress on its own and jointly with the partners organized across the state. Though their rhetoric is directed against the BJP regime at the Centre, the Left would be the ultimate lose if the UDF maintains the tempo. The Left leaders know pretty well that the battle ahead is going to be grim.

N Muraleedharan
N Muraleedharan
Senior Journalist from Kerala. Worked with leading news agency Press Trust of India. He is regular columnist and writes on politics of Kerala and National Politics.


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