The Left’s fork

Hubris causes the fatal error of judgment that leads to the fall. When the Left Front won 60 seats in 2004, did anybody tell its leaders that that fall begins at the zenith, from the very moment of over-reach? The Left's best-ever performance is followed now by its worst-ever since 1977. While party strengths in Kerala routinely oscillate, Bengal has been the Left's impregnable fortress since then. On Fort Bengal now flies the Trinamool's flag. In Kerala, its victory in 2004 has been almost reversed now.

As the Left introspects, as Messrs Bardhan, Karat and Raja indicated it would, how should it apportion blame? By now, its central leadership doesn't need to be reminded there was always a price to pay for decisions made in the air-conditioned ivory tower, disregarding opinions of state units. True, troubles in the states must be factored into the Left's spectacular collapse — the CPM was mortally wounded by Nandigram and Singur, the Kerala state government has been a darkly comic boxing match between two titans — but, in each case, state units have been let down by central leaders whose doctrinaire intransigence has now forced the Left out in the cold. If the TC-Congress momentum picks up from here, after the 2011 assembly polls in Bengal, left parties might find themselves reduced to a last, tiny bastion of Tripura. They've just proved themselves capable, in real terms, of losing Bengal.

That fissures are now appearing in the Left will not surprise those who recall how the Bengal CPM was unhappy with Karat bulldozing the Left out of supporting the UPA last year. After four-plus years of dictating terms, Karat chose that moment, and the nuclear deal, to erase the Left's credibility. Had it not blackmailed and betrayed the UPA, there'd perhaps have been no TC-Congress alliance to hammer the CPM. Somnath Chatterjee, whom the party expelled over the trust vote, has called for mature leadership and warned that narcissistic leaders won't take the Left anywhere, anymore. The Left's come to a fork in its path; it must now choose between irrelevance and reinvention.

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