The Left will endure

The severe electoral defeat of the CPM and the Left Front in West Bengal will have dismayed and disappointed well-wishers of the Left, while some of its critics and opponents have already written its epitaph. If in Bengal, as happens in other parts of the country, the Left had lost every alternate election, perhaps the kind of fundamental questions on the ideology of the Left and its very existence would not have been raised. The change of governments, as in Kerala, would then have been taken as part of a "normal" democratic cycle. The mistake, it would appear, is to have won elections seven times in a row!

It is not inconceivable that after 34 years, the slogan of change should have found resonance as it did in West Bengal more so in the context of the coming together of a largely disparate range of political forces, from extreme Left to Right, with a little help from some in the media who played as opening batsmen in the team. According to provisional figures put out by a TV channel, while the index of opposition unity (IOU) in Bengal against the Left was as high as 84 on a scale from 1-100 where 100 represents total unity, in Assam the IOU against the Congress was much lower, at 60.

At the same time, as the leadership of the Left has repeatedly stated, the subjective factors for the huge reduction in seats, the weaknesses and shortcomings, the various factors that have played a role will not be brushed aside, but identified and addressed. Intrinsic to the structures of a communist party is the culture of open and frank debate, criticism and correction. Unlike in most other parties, there is little room here for sycophantic choruses or a one-leader-decides-all syndrome in the decision-making and accountability processes at different levels in the party. These discussions take place within party forums and the conclusions are publicly reported. It is curious how contemptuous mainstream commentators are in their reference to this uniquely democratic process as being regimented.

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