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Left struggles to find allies in many poll bound states

By Saubhadro Chatterji
October 27, 2009 08:55 IST
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The recent electoral drubbing seems to have forced the Left to search for space in 'leftover' electoral politics, as it struggles to find suitable allies in different states for quick-fix poll adjustments.

In the recently-concluded Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Communist Party of India were part of a 'rainbow' bandwagon of parties like the Samajwadi Party and Republican Party of India-Athawale. This adjustment was essentially seen as a group of parties which were unable to find a place alongside the big powers of the state. In the Lok Sabha elections, both SP and RPI-A got seats from the NCP and Congress, respectively.

Now in Jharkhand, a state considered crucial by the CPI-M in terms of the anti-Naxal operations in West Bengal, the Left is waiting to see which parties are rejected by the United Progressive Alliance.

"We are yet to finalise our poll strategy in Jharkhand. We have to see what the Congress does. If it continues its ties with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, then we might strike a seat-sharing agreement with Lalu Prasad's RJD. If the Congress takes back Lalu, then negotiations with the JMM can take place for seats. If the Congress adopts the Rahul Gandhi line and prefers to go alone, then we have more options to chose possible allies," a CPI-M politburo member said.

Naxal-affected Jharkhand will go to a five-phase poll, starting November 27.

During the Lok Sabha polls, CPI-M and the CPI had struck an electoral adjustment for the first time with the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist in Bihar. The three parties are determined to continue this alliance in the forthcoming Jharkhand polls. "We want to continue the alliance of CPI, CPI-M) and CPI-ML. Whatever electoral adjustments take place will be done keeping in mind the benefits for our alliance," CPI-M politburo leader Sitaram Yechury told Business Standard.

But a section of the CPI-M fears the CPI-ML may not agree to any adjustment with the RJD, as it eyes Prasad's party as a political enemy in neighbouring Bihar.

While the CPI-M may be waiting to find allies, the dominant parties in tribal-dominated Jharkhand may not be equally keen to see the comrades at their doorsteps. The CPI-M set up a unique record in the last Assembly election in Jharkhand: it was the only party whose candidates forfeited their deposits in all the seats they had contested in 2005. The CPI managed a better score — it could save the deposit of its candidates in four seats.

In the 2005 elections, the vote share of the CPI was 1.8 per cent, while the CPI-M stood just short of reaching one per cent — it got 0.99 per cent of the state's vote share. The CPI-ML, the best performer among the three Left parties, has an MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly, which dissolves on November 1 in accordance with the governor's recommendation to facilitate the Assembly elections.

Even in Maharashtra, where it again tried its luck to establish the elusive 'third front' by joining hands with the SP (a party that deserted the Left overnight over the Indo-US nuclear deal) and other forces, the CPI-M was again a loser. In the last Assembly, it had three seats. Now, even with the help of a dozen of allies, it got reduced to just one MLA in Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party BJP believes it has a good chance of forming a government in Jharkhand along with its partner—the Janata Dal-United—if the Opposition is kept divided.

The BJP's assumptions are that if Babulal Marandi and the Congress have an allinace, then JMM and the RJD would do the best service to the BJP if they were to contest all the seats independent of each other. "It would be fatal for the BJP if all the four parties were to come together," said a BJP leader.

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Saubhadro Chatterji in New Delhi
Source: source