A nuclear spectre haunts the CPM. While the central leadership of the party wants to expunge the word nuclear from India’s political lexicon, comrades in West Bengal want to retain it. Leaders such as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Jyoti Basu openly favour nuclear energy. These differences are unlikely to be ideological. They have more to do with the top leadership holding no elected office. The state units, however, are acutely aware of limits imposed by electoral politics. It has not prevented the party from engaging in verbal gymnastics. General secretary Prakash Karat wants nuclear energy but not the Indo-US deal. Others are busy spinning what the West Bengal CM said.
What does this say about the party’s future? If anything, it’s likely to become more realistic and less ideological. For, beyond electoral politics lies the wider domain of political relevance. If Mao could embrace Nixon, there’s no reason why Indian comrades can’t have nuclear dreams.