Published on 06-02-2008
Cracks widen in Left Front, CPI-M accused of hegemony
Written by Liz Mathew
Differences have deepened in the Left Front, India's oldest political alliance, with smaller allies accusing the dominant Marxists of "hegemony, corruption and high handedness" and warning of a split.
While the Forward Bloc, the second largest party in West Bangal's ruling Left Front, has decided to go it alone in the Feb 23 elections in Left-ruled Tripura , another ally, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), is going public over its differences with the West Bengal government's industrialisation policies.
The verbal feud over ideological differences has taken a violent turn in West Bengal, with activists of the dominant Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Forward Bloc clashing in Burdwan district.
On Tuesday, the Forward Bloc unleashed a "civil disobedience" movement against the CPI-M's "capitalist policies and corruption among its leaders" - a remarkable development for an alliance that has ruled West Bengal continuously since June 1977, causing envy among all other political parties.
"Our party men are holding protests in front of sub-divisional offices across the state. Our fight is against the high-handedness and policies of the CPI-M," said a furious G. Devarajan, the Forward Bloc's national secretary. He added: "The front is leading to a split in West Bengal."
For decades, the Forward Bloc, the CPI-M, the RSP and the Communist Party of India (CPI) - the main constituents of the nine-party front in West Bengal - have contested and won elections together.
Despite frequent allegations of high-handedness directed at the Marxists, the alliance has remained one entity, a rarity in India's volatile politics. But in recent times the grouping has come under tremendous strain.
Both in West Bengal and Tripura, the other three parties allege that the CPI-M is slowly trying to make them redundant. Similar infighting has also erupted in Kerala, the other communist bastion.
The Forward Bloc has said it will contest 15 seats in Tripura's 60-member assembly after the CPI-M refused to allot more than one seat to it.
"It shows the CPI-M's arrogance and high-handedness. We do not want to compromise on our ideology even if we do not get electoral advantage," Devarajan said.
The Forward Bloc has 23 legislators in the West Bengal assembly and the RSP 20.
Both the RSP and the Forward Bloc are also miffed with the CPI-M over its green signal to the central government to go ahead with negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in connection with the India-US civil nuclear deal.
The Left grouping, which supports Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, has opposed the pact with Washington. But in November, the Left, mainly under CPI-M pressure, reversed its stand, saying that New Delhi should get back to the communists before taking a final stand.
The CPI, the Forward Bloc and the RSP also distanced themselves from the CPI-M over the violence in Nandigram, where clashes between the Marxists and those opposed to takeover of farmland for industry left around 35 people dead.
In Kerala, where the CPI-M leads the ruling Left Democratic Front, differences among the allies have been hogging the headlines. The leaders of the CPI-M and the CPI are locked in a public spat over a variety of issues.
CPI-M leaders are however optimistic that the Left alliance will remain intact. "Differences are there," Basudeb Acharya, said a CPI-M veteran in the Lok Sabha. "But discussions are on to solve them. I am sure we will be able to resolve them."
He said the allies had the "freedom" to adopt their own individual programmes.
"As a political party, everyone - be it the Forward Bloc or the RSP - has the right to have its own programmes and struggles. But they should not take law into their hands," he warned. For now, the CPI-M's smaller allies are not listening.