Last week, three key United Progressive Alliance (UPA) partners, Lalu Prasad, Sharad Pawar and Ram Vilas Paswan, made an argument about the essential role that the Left parties could play after the elections.
On Thursday, Pawar said in Baramati that the UPA required the “blessings and support” of the Left. Almost simultaneously, as if on cue, in Patna, Prasad said the doors were open for a post-poll alliance with the Left to form a government in the event of the Congress-led UPA being unable to do so. Paswan made similar noises.
Is the Left indispensable or have UPA members turned jittery? What accounts for the steady accretion of parties to the Left “fold”?
The Prasad-Paswan combine is in the midst of a difficult campaign in Bihar. The Nitish Kumar government has made strides on the governance front that are likely to yield electoral dividend.
Pawar faces a different challenge. He has for long harboured prime ministerial ambitions. But with political splintering, that dream may be very difficult, if not impossible, to realize this summer.
This logic of political difficulties is translating into a Left-is-indispensable argument.
The Left, at the moment, seems to be in an advantageous position. It has gained from the first mover advantage. The rapidity with which Left leaders went about “collecting” allies makes them look indispensable. H.D. Deve Gowda in Karnataka and Naveen Patnaik in Orissa are just two examples.
Will this translate into lasting gains? That depends on one’s perspective of what is lasting. If it means keeping the Congress out of power (or as a junior partner in a coalition) and denying Manmohan Singh a second chance at prime ministership, then the Left may have a good chance. If, however, the attempt is to provide a programmatic alternative to the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, then there may not be much to what the Left is doing. Put simply, in terms of policy and governance alternatives, there is little space for Leftist ideas at this time.
So, in the end, indispensability is another expression for political expediency. The Left is a magnet for parties that feel they have no chance at power in isolation.
The Indian Left:indispensable or simply an expedient? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org