17 May 2009, ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: The ‘kingmaker’ has turned pauper. Prakash Karat’s fire and brimstone sounds like an empty vessel today with the Left reduced from its larger-than-life presence to political irrelevance. From the great leap forward in 2004 when the Left touched a record 62 in Lok Sabha, it has dropped to an all-time low of 24 seats.
A vote against dogmatism, factionalism, arrogance and identity politics, the verdict is an indictment of power without responsibility which the Left enjoyed over the past five years. The Left’s report card reads like this: 16 in West Bengal where it had 35 seats with the CPM’s tally down from 26 to nine, four in Kerala where it had swept the last polls winning 19 seats of which the CPM bagged 14, two in Tripura and one each in Tamil Nadu and Orissa.
The CPM has also got a drubbing in the assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, where its numbers have reduced from nine to one. The CPI has come down from six to four. In Orissa assembly, the CPM has won two seats and the CPI one.
The planning at the CPM headquarters in Delhi failed to boost the party’s prospects in the “red bastions” of West Bengal and Kerala. The electorate called the Left’s bluff in both the states, the first major electoral bloodbath after Mr Karat took over as CPM general secretary.
Despite regular warnings, Mr Karat and company chose to ignore the problems in the state units. The Indo-US nuclear deal, on which Mr Karat so obsessively chose to hinge his party’s political line, did not count. Nor did the minority appeasement that the CPM pursued appeal to the voters. A humbled Karat on Saturday gracefully accepted defeat, but kept silent on the reasons for it.
“The CPM and the Left has suffered a serious setback. It necessitates a serious examination,” Mr Karat said. He refused to accept the blame on the party leadership, Left’s policies or the state units, saying a “collective analysis” will be done by the politbureau. A slow learning Karat maintained that he was determined to fight for “alternative” policies.