India's Communist Parties All Bark But No Bite

'The Left is not the pet dog or lap dog of anybody, but a watchdog. When it barks, the Government will have to listen. If it does not, this dog will have to bite very hard,'
' Sitaram Yechury. Politburo Member, CPI (M)

India's Communist parties led by the CPI(M) is the leading partner of the Congress Coalition Government. With its sixty plus Members of Parliament, the Communist parties grouping is the mainstay of the Congress Government presided by Sonia Gandhi and with Dr Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister. The Speaker of India's Parliament who presides over the parliamentary proceedings is also a Leftist leader belonging to the CPI(M).

India's Communist parties grouping is therefore today in a unique position to dominate the direction of Congress Government policies. Here lies an inherent contradiction in that the personal preference of the Prime Minister to follow speedy economic reforms to integrate India into the global economy is in direct contradiction of the Communist parties commitment to a State-controlled economy. When the Prime Minister unveils any new economic measures for reform, it is strongly opposed by the Leftists e.g. the airports modernization plans or the disinvestment plan of loss-making public sector undertakings. When the Prime Minister shows signs of ignoring the Leftist opposition they call on the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and then the Government is forced on many an economic issue to a roll-back of the proposed policy.

The determining factor that comes into play is simply the Congress Party's impulse for survival in power.

The Leftists barks on economic policies have more often than not been heeded to by the Congress Government. But what is now emerging is that the Communist parties bark on critical foreign policy issues is being studiously ignored by the Congress Government and that includes Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister. The foreign policy issues on which the Communists have been stridently vocal and opposing the Congress Government are ' India's decision to vote in favor of the USA supported vote to refer Iran to the United Nations on the nuclear issue, the US-India strategic partnership and the visit of President Bush to India in March 2006. In fact the Communist parties had decided to boycott the proposed address by President Bush to a Joint Session of Parliament which the Congress Government has now been forced to cancel.

The Congress Government's indifference to the Communist parties demands on foreign policy issues may now put both the Communist parties and the Congress Government in a severe political fix. On foreign policy issues, if the Communist parties just continue barking without their threatened bite they are sure to lose a lot of political credibility and political standing in the country. It would end up as a classic case of barking dogs seldom bite.

If as Sitaram Yechury has proclaimed that if the Government does not listen, this dog would have to bite hard, then India is in for some intriguing political times.  A hard bite by the Communist parties would honestly involve the Communist parties withdrawing their political support to the Congress Government. This would imply the fall of the Congress Government. The Congress has no equivalent alternative political grouping to fall back on for political support to continue in power.

In anticipation of the Communist parties bite, political speculation in India has increased with all sorts of political combinations being discussed including a Third Front of non-Congress and non-BJP parties. There are even wild card combinations being talked about of a Government with former Prime Minister Deva Gowda as the new Prime Minister and Mulayam Singh as the Deputy Prime Minister with the BJP lending outside political support. This would imply a non- Congress and non-Communist coalition with a very wide range of political parties.

All of the above, however, depends on whether the Communist parties have the political conviction to deliver on their bite and be prepared to forfeit the proxy power that they enjoy through their political support to the Congress Government.     


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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