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3-min read

Left Front Trampled by Saffron Surge, Reduced to Historic Low

The 2019 Lok Sabha polls will be the first time since 1952 that the Left Front will not end up with double digits in the general election.

PTI

Updated:May 23, 2019, 9:22 PM IST
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Left Front Trampled by Saffron Surge, Reduced to Historic Low
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New Delhi: Registering its worst poll performance in over six decades, the Left Front was virtually wiped off its bastions on Thursday with the Lok Sabha poll trends showing that it was headed towards a debacle.

With the latest trends showing the Left parties leading in only six seats, both party leaders and ideologues acknowledged that the need of the hour was not just bringing in changes in the organisational structure, but also altering their approach towards electoral politics.

The 2019 Lok Sabha polls will be the first time since 1952 that the Left Front will not end up with double digits in the general election. Till now, while it had put up its most dismal show in 2014, winning only 12 seats -- 12 less than what it had won in 2009 -- its highest ever tally of 59 seats had come in 2004.

"The political ideology of the Left still has relevance, but it is not in tune with electoral politics. We need to do serious introspection, rework strategies, reorganise and reconnect with the masses," CPI leader D Raja said, adding that young blood had to be infused for the resurgence of the Left in the country.

Once a Left stronghold, the CPI(M) is leading in only one seat in Kerala -- Alappuzha. Another Left party, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), is leading in the Kollam seat in Kerala, but it is a part of the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the southern state.

The Left parties had bagged five seats in Kerala in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

In West Bengal, a state ruled by the Left for 34 uninterrupted years, it is all set to draw a blank in its worst-ever performance. It had won two seats in the state in 2014. Five years hence, it has not even managed to bag the second spot in any of the state's 42 Lok Sabha seats.

"To think that the Left Front has an ideological influence over people is the basic failure of the Left parties. Communities seem to be Left-leaning because of class interests like farmers, who feel their issues will be addressed by these parties. However, I am not sure they vote for the Left as their ideology may be different.

"The Left has failed to culturally influence them with its ideology and thus, it remains confined to their basic class interests," professor, author and Left ideologue Chaman Lal said.

The Left Front, comprising the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the RSP, enjoyed its golden period in electoral politics in the 1990s and early 2000s.

It had governments in three states during this period and held around 55-60 seats in Parliament. It played the role of kingmaker for the Third Front governments during 1996-98 by joining a 13-party coalition and for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2004.

However, with the loss in the hands of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal in 2011, to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tripura in 2018 and staring at a humiliating defeat against the Congress in Kerala in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, its ideological influence seems to be waning.

In West Bengal, where the Left Front bagged around 23 per cent votes in 2014, its vote share has reduced to a mere seven per cent five years down the line. At the same time, the BJP's vote share has gone up to 40.1 per cent from 17.2 per cent. The TMC too has increased its vote share from 39.7 per cent in 2014 to 43.5 per cent.

"When we talk of the Left's relevance, we have to differentiate between the Left ideology and the Left-leaning political parties. The Left ideology is based on equality and the parties have not been able to reach out to the people and explain it. They are in electoral politics, but they never prepared themselves for it.

"They have never fought for power at the Centre. They have never contested over 100 seats. So, they are perceived by the voter to be an ally, a regional force, never the prospective ruling party at the Centre. Their flaw also lies in the fact that they think that the Left ideology has an answer to all problems. Due to this arrogance, they have failed to reinvent themselves with the changing times," Apoorvanand, a professor of the Delhi University, said.

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