A Communist-'Fascist' Tie-up
Against the Nuclear Deal
Instead of the "accidental" prime minister - Manmohan Singh's description of himself - it is the too-clever-by-half communists who have met with an accident in the sense of having suffered a sudden rebuff on the India-US nuclear deal.
Significantly, they have been ambushed not by putative opponents like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is on their side in this matter, but their one-time allies - the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.
The blow must have been all the more hurtful for the comrades because of its unexpected nature. They had apparently calculated that their opposition to the deal was shared by sections within the Congress and by virtually the entire opposition, including the Samajwadi Party.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi's observation last October on the reasonableness of their criticism must have strengthened their belief that they had succeeded in isolating Manmohan Singh within and outside the Congress. The prime minister's philosophical remark in the aftermath of Sonia Gandhi's comment that one had to accept disappointments in life suggested that the commissars were heading towards success in preventing the "operationalization" of the deal, to quote them.
But, suddenly, it is the Left which finds itself isolated while Manmohan Singh is brimming with confidence in the hope of proving the ruling United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) majority in parliament and then clinching the deal.
Yet, the dramatic turnaround was not unexpected. First, it was always on the cards that Manmohan Singh would not surrender meekly to the Left's bullying since he had evidently set his heart on the path-breaking agreement. Secondly, it is by now clear that the prime minister is convinced that the step is in the country's best interests, a view shared by a large section of the atomic establishment, especially after the publication of the draft agreement which is before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Thirdly, Manmohan Singh was aware that if he retreated, then he would have to carry the burden of being a wimp all his life. This was where the "accidental" nature of his position counted, for had he been a professional dyed-in-the-wool politician, he might not have been too sensitive about his reputation in the future. But being essentially an apolitical person, he is too thin-skinned to let the Left ride roughshod over him.
Hence his "stubbornness", which Prakash Karat of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) found so disconcerting. Karat might still have had the last laugh but for the Samajwadi Party's somersault provoked by Chief Minister Mayawati's growing clout in Uttar Pradesh.
Since the Samajwadi Party does not have much of a presence anywhere else, it simply could not allow the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo to consolidate her position in the only state where it has a base. The Congress, too, was concerned about the BSP appropriating the entire Dalit vote bank. Since the enemy of an enemy is a friend, the Congress decided to use the Samajwadi Party's nervousness about Mayawati to form an alliance with it.
Manmohan Singh's role in stitching up this new partnership is not clear, but the fact that the Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh was given a place of honor at his table (while Karat sat with Sonia Gandhi) during a celebratory dinner on the UPA's completion of four years in office should have warned the CPI-M that something was brewing.
Now that the Samajwadi Party has severed its old links with the CPI-M and moved over to the Congress, all of the Left's plans for the future have collapsed like a house of cards. For one, it is no longer in a position to scuttle the nuclear deal since the government is expected to pass the floor test in parliament with the help of friends from the BJP's side like the Akali Dal.
For another, the Left's hopes of building the so-called Third Front or the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) have been dashed in view of the Samajwadi Party's defection, which leaves only the Telugu Desam as a major constituent of the group.
There are other sorrows in store for the CPI-M. Its recent reverses in West Bengal's panchayat and municipal elections have shown that the party is losing ground in its stronghold. In view of these setbacks, the Marxists in the state are extremely uneasy about an early election, for which they are blaming Karat's uncompromising stance on the nuclear deal.
While the CPI-M's members are dissatisfied with their own leadership, other Left parties like the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) have been emboldened by Big Brother's discomfiture to take the initiative in forming a rival Left Front comprising, among others, the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) and the Maoists.
In the wake of these developments, it is clear that the Left's tally of seats will fall in the next parliamentary elections to around 40 - drop of as many as 20 seats. And it does not take much political perspicacity to see that Karat will be blamed for this decline.
But, before that, he might face even more criticism about the CPI-M's current proximity to the BJP, which it regards as fascistic. The closeness is in the context of the nuclear deal, which is opposed by both, though for different reasons. While the Left's objections are ideological, the BJP's is cynically political since it realizes that the clinching of the deal will be the Congress's trump card in the next general election.
But being on the same side of the fence as the BJP, the Left has shown that its claims of fighting 'communal' forces are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Nor is this the first time that there has been an informal communist-fascist tie-up. They were also together in the Samyukta Vidhayak Dals (SVD) of the Hindi heartland in the mid-1960s and in the Janata conglomerates of 1977-79 and 1989-90.
In all these instances, the political glue which brought the Left and the Jana Sangh-BJP together was anti-Congressism. It is the same today.
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