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Master of Arts

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NEW Delhi - 110067
Apart from discussing the various prevalent ambivalences, ambiguities, confusions and
contradictions in all manner of CPI(M)’s criticisms approach and attitude towards the UPA
government vis-à-vis the media ‘s perception of the CPI(M)’s activities in the past one
year and apart from dealing with the characteristic ideological shifts and changes in
CPI(M)’s stand and policies on various issues with different perspectives , this presentation
will also have in its discretion a right to critically analyze what the CPM actually wants
the UPA government to do.

Before going further on the path of looking into all these details in the playground of
contemporary Indian politics, first of all we will have to understand the fundamental
nature, character and structure of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) with a broad
outlook, rational approach and critical faculty of mind.

Having a great understanding of the Indian Psyche, the CPM knew very well that it would
never catch the fancy of the Indian people, however catchy its slogans may be and this was
the reason that to spread its area of influence it adopted the dubious policy of infiltration
into political parties in power to influence their working and to wreck those organizations
from within. Communist behaviour and policy has always been dubious, disruptive and
deceptive. In pre-independence period it sneaked into the Congress under the name and
style of Congress Socialist Party. When in 1937 Congress formed governments all alone or
in alliance in 9 out of 11 states, socialists in Congress gained control of areas which later
became the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh in independent India. But
they soon got exposed and were expelled from the party as they were trying to establish
control over the party’s organizational units.

Communism is the child of anarchy, discord, disruption and disorder. The 1917
Communist Revolution in Russia is one such example apart from other countries which
witnessed revolutions that put communists in control. Like Imperialism, it is expansionist
in nature. Communism could thrive for about seven decades in Russia and less in other
countries not because people started supporting it but because of the reign of terror,
suppression, dictatorship and disruption let loose by them. Communism never believed in
democracy though it did always pretend to be its champion. It thrives in the dictatorship of
the proletariat. In USSR communists established their stronghold only because of the
torture chambers of Stalin. Thousands of people who did not agree with Stalin were
butchered in the most inhuman manner. People did not know what happened to their
parents, children and friends taken away by the Russian administration. The Indian
communists do remember the dictatorial regime of Hitler and his crimes, but easily gloat
over what Stalin did in USSR. Although Stalin’s successors, Khrushchev and Brezhnev did
gather some amount of moral strength to denounce Stalin, but the irony is that the Indian
brand of communists preferred to remain mute.

Influenced by foreign ideology, nationalism has never been the strong point of the Indian
communists. In India they have displayed their rank opportunism right from the beginning.
When Gandhi gave the Quit India call, it were the communists who sided with the British
and wanted them to stay on, and the Congress to support the War. When the Leftists found
no takers among the people of India for their infamous doctrine that ‘power flows through
the barrel of the gun’, they changed their tactics, and joined electoral politics. Since till
1967, they failed to make any significant mark on the electoral scene, they changed their
strategy and started infiltrating into the Congress to influence it. Having throughout been
anti-Congress, and calling Congress as the enemy of the people, it were the communists
who jumped to the Indira bandwagon to save her Congress government in 1969.

Showing a kind of unprincipled nature and incoherence among their words, pretensions
and actions, they supported the Congress in 1975 during the period of Emergency. It’s a
fact that the communism thrives in the times of uncertainty, disorder and weak
governments. In 1967 elections where Congress grew weak in many states, the
communists had no qualms of conscience to join hands with the then Jana Sangh in many
states to throw the anti-people Congress out of power. It is the same Jana Sangh whom
they had day in and day out branded as ‘communal’. But they entered into a marriage of
convenience because that served their political design.
In 1977, the Marxists aligned themselves with the Janta Party against the Congress
knowing fully well that Jana Sangh was the major constituent of this outfit blessed by
Jaiprakash Narayan. In 1989, the Left parties and Janta Dal formed a government at the
centre with VP Singh as the Prime Minister on the pillar of support provided by BJP whom
they otherwise call a communal party. They accepted because they knew that without its
support they couldn’t achieve their goal to dethrone Congress. Interestingly when BJP
withdrew support to VP Singh government, overnight it once again became an untouchable
party, ‘communal’ in nature.

In 1996, when the Left played an important part in the formation of a United Front at the
Centre and was successful in installing first H.D.Dewegowda as Prime Minister and late,
I.K. Gujral, Sri Harkishan Singh Surjeet and other communist leaders tried their best to
rope in Akali Dal into their Front. When Akali Dal refused, the grapes turned sour for
communists and they branded Akali Dal as a ‘communal’ outfit. The Left championed and
discarded the idea of a ‘Third Front’ in one breath. Before 2004 elections, speaking on the
need for this front, the then general secretary, CPM, Harkishan Singh Surjeet expressed
that he knew which way the wind was blowing. And making this true the Leftists found
themselves blown up into the lap of the Congress, the same Congress about which Surjeet
had said only a few weeks earlier that there was no raison d’etre in such an alliance with
the Congress because it would mean ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’. Now they are doing it
most gleefully, without any regret, remorse or sense of shame.

Like mosquitoes who do not breed in a clean environment and pure flowing water,
Communism is the child that takes its birth in situation of violence, disorder, and
disruption. Following this the communists in India are always looking in to create such
conditions of uncertainty and upheaval. They have swung themselves to the centre stage
only in a hung assembly or Parliament, be it in 1967, 1989, 1996 or 2004. Otherwise
nobody cares a fig for them. As a result in the present UPA dispensation, it is the Left
which has the enviable position of having the cake and eating it too. With a mandate of just
6.07% of votes and 43 seats in a house of 543 in 2004 Lok Sabha elections, it is the CPM
which seems to be calling the shots and dictating terms. In fact, it is enjoying power
without responsibility. It is usurping all the credit for everything positive that UPA does,
and passes on the blame to the UPA for everything going wrong. It is enjoying both the
worlds, the ruling and the opposition.

Reversing the case of the big fish devouring a small one, the small fish of the Leftists is
trying, and with success to a great extent to swallow the big fish of UPA and Congress. Be
it the case of increase in the prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas, power, water, FDI in
certain sectors, PSU disinvestment, and all other manner of domestic and foreign policies
with special reference to economic policies of the UPA, the Leftists have been as brave in
opposing it in the print and electronic media as thy are weak in letting UPA have its way in
these matters. In the last week of October, they organized an all-India strike against these
measures of the UPA government they support.

The moment they go wild in their denunciation of UPA policies, immediately comes an
invitation either from the head of the government, the Prime Minister or from head of the
coalition and Congress, Sonia Gandhi for a friendly meeting at lunch, dinner or breakfast.
In the sweet smell and flavour of the mouthwatering cuisine served at the meetings, the
plight of the common man gets drowned and generally on most of the occasions, the Left
leaders came out satisfied with their talks. They wave red flags in public and give a green
signal to the UPA at these private meetings. While munching these delicacies they seem
apologetic to Manmohan’s government for their public conduct but explain away their
compulsion to adopt such public stance to survive in the politics of today. Otherwise, how
can they explain their contradictory behaviour? Important CPM leaders are on record
having said so many times that UPA should not take their support for granted. They have
often said very bravely in the public that ‘we do not only bark, we can bite too’. But during
the last 22 months on all the important issues which, in their perception have directly hurt
the common man, they have failed to bite even once. It now appears that either their bark is
hollow, or they do not know how to bite even when provoked and challenged or they don’t
have the teeth to bite or their teeth stand broken.
The UPA and the communists are presenting a strange phenomenon of coalition politics in
which the conflicts and contradictions outnumber the unanimity of thought and action.
Every other day, our news media flash the report of one Left constituent or the other
alleging that the government is going astray on the provisions of the National Common
Minimum Programme (NCMP) agreed to by them. Here one san see that the divergence of
views is more prominent that the sphere of agreement. The underlying message from the
Marxists is that its support to the UPA government is a matter of compulsion and does not
stem from any political conviction. That speaks volumes for the political ideologies of the
Left parties and their convictions and principles. It has none and displayed none. All it has
is its short term strategy to promote its narrow selfish agenda and vested interests. Nothing
more. Concern for people’s interests and tears for the poor and working class are just a

After discussing the approaches and actions of the communists from the pre-Independence
period to the present date, now this paper has reached a point when we will analyze the
CPM’s criticisms of the UPA government on various fronts like domestic, foreign,
economic, etc comprising many issues in a detailed and comprehensive manner taking into
account of all the views and criticisms made by the media of CPM’s criticizing attitude
towards the policies of the UPA government.

The CPM’s criticisms are of varied and different nature ranging from the issues of Patent
Bill to the Pension Bill and from disinvestment issue to the Indo-US nuclear deal. On Iran
voting issue, the CPM criticized the UPA government for voting with the west against Iran
at the IAEA board meeting on September 24 at Vienna to refer to the United Nations
Security Council issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme. The CPM saw it as an
abandonment of Non-Alignment, as acting under pressure from the US, as virtually
converting India into an ally of the US doing immense damage to India’s standing among
the Non Aligned and developing countries. It warned that the government should know
that its pro-US stand on the Iranian issue “will not be acceptable to the people of India”. 1

India yielded to US pressure, says Left”, Neena Vyas, The Hindu, September 25, 2005.
It also gave its command to the government that when in November the Iran nuclear
question again came up before the IAEA, “India has to take a stand in consonance with an
independent foreign policy and national interests”2, and “the government must oppose any
discriminatory treatment to Iran”3 and “it should not endorse the blackmail by the nuclear
haves”4. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, while condemning the government’s stand
in Iran, said, “ India-Iran relations could not be held hostage to the US”5 and the UPA
government must act in India’ s interests and pursue an independent foreign policy. For
him “it is important not to give in to the US pressure”6. The CPM’s view was that “the
Manmohan Singh government has caved into the US pressure”7 and according to Prakash
Karat, “the Prime Minister is directly responsible for this state of affairs”8 and “the CPM
and the Left parties cannot countenance this new direction of foreign policy”9. He went on
to say that “there is no doubt whatsoever that the Manmohan Singh government gave up its
stand in order to appease the US”10 just to be a beneficiary if the Indo-US nuclear
agreement. He further argued that “the UPA government has taken a major step which
adversely affects India’s independent foreign policy and its status in the Non- Aligned
movement”,11 and “it has deliberately ignored the immoral and illegal position of the US
and Western powers”12. While uttering his views that “by voting with the US, India is
becoming party to another infamous exercise in intimidation and coercion against a

“Don’t give into pressure on Iran”, The Hindu, September 17,2005.
Ibid.,(quoted from People’s Democracy)
“Left sees red, govt rebuts”, The Telegraph, September 26, 2005 (also in People’s Democracy, September
25, 2005,Pg 1)
“Karat hits out at PM on Iran vote”, Hindustan Times, September 30, 2005 (also in People’s Democracy,
October 2, 2005, Pg 3)
“India’s independent foreign policy affected :Karat”, The Hindu, September 30, 2005(also in People’s
Democracy, October 2, 2005, Pg 3)
“People’s Democracy”, October 2, 2005, Pg 3.
Ibid., (also in “India’s independent foreign policy affected :Karat”, The Hindu, September 30, 2005)
country with which it has friendly relations and vital energy stakes”13, Karat cautioned the
government that “by the next board meeting of the IAEA in November, the Indian
Government will have to undo the damage done”14 because “ Iranian nuclear issue is not a
fit case for referring to the United Nations Security Council”15 and to make the Indian
government adopt such a position, he declared the necessity “for all the Left and
democratic forces to mobilize the people in defense of an independent foreign policy”16.

The politburo of the CPI(M) issued a statement on September 25,2005 which says that “the
resolution adopted by the international atomic energy agency(IAEA) on the Iran nuclear
issue is unjustifiable and one-sided”17 and “it is shameful that India has voted with the US
and the Western countries to refer Iran to the UN Security Council unless it complies with
the demands made”18.Criticizing the ‘pro-American tilt’ in India’s foreign policy, Marxist
leader Sitaram Yechury even wanted the constitution to be amended to make it mandatory
for the government to seek Parliament’s approval on important foreign policy decisions
like the vote on Iran. Explaining the theoretical approach of his party, he, while speaking to
the BBC Hindi Service after India voted against Iran at the international atomic energy
agency(IAEA) meeting, said, “our understanding is that in the present circumstances, time
has come for amending the constitution to make it obligatory for the government to see the
approval of Parliament before taking a key foreign policy decision and the signing of
international treaties, which is not required presently”19.Speaking on the matters of foreign
policy specially on the issue of voting against Iran, Yechury confessed that there were lot
of problems between the government and the Left. He said, “what we are saying and the
Common Minimum Programme also says is that an independent foreign policy would be

“People’s Democracy”,September25,2005,Pg 1.(also in “Left sees red, govt rebuts”, The Telegraph,
September 26, 2005)
“CPM: Make Parliamentary nod must for foreign policy”, DNA World, February 7,2006.
Responding to a question of UPA government’s insensitiveness foe Left parties’ concerns
and taking them for granted, he says “it is not correct to say this. However on this
particular issue (voting against Iran), it is definite that the government has not completely
listened to us”21. On this issue the CPM constantly warned and threatened the government
to withdraw support apart from making protests, strikes and agitations. They tried their
best to keep a pressure on the government to accept their demands. As Yechury said in the
continuation of his interview in the BBC Hindi Service that “if the government insists that
it wants to carry on like it has done on the Iran issue, then it should also know the
consequences. If it wants to go to that level then we would also see in the coming days on
what to do”22.

Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI (M) told in an interview that “the decision to
ride with the US and the E.U. countries at Vienna was a serious departure from India’s
independent foreign policy and from the common interests of NAM countries”23. He said
that “the CPI (M) planned to organize nation-wide rallies to protest against the
government’s stand on Iran”24. Treating this issue as a litmus test of the government, Karat
said, “if the government takes a stand against Iran at the next IAEA meeting (scheduled to
be held on November 24), the Left will raise the matter in Parliament”25. Thus from the
abovementioned facts it is clear now that the CPM showed a great kind of resentment
against the UPA government.

As far as the media’s criticism of CPM’s stand on this issue with the UPA government is
concerned, that is also in plenty. Except ‘the Hindu’ and ‘the Frontline’ which expressed
by pursing their lips and maintaining a stony silence, almost all newspapers and magazines
were critical towards the CPM. Rejecting all the government’s arguments, the CPM
claimed that the decision had been taken under American pressure, consequently
symbolizing India’s inability to conduct an independent foreign policy and it asked the
government to revise its stand on Iran at the next meeting of IAEA in November,

“The India’s Volte- face”, John Cherian ,Frontline, October 21,2005, Pg 130
Ibid., Pg 131.
“The Balancing Act”, Saurabh Shukla, India Today, November 28, 2005, Pg 32.
otherwise if it votes the way it did in September, it would face serious consequences of
which one could be the CPM and other allies joining hands together to ensure the
government finds it difficult to steer pending legislation in Parliament, the government
alone will not be able to mister adequate number to conduct its legislation business. But
“whatever the decision on the vote, the government also doesn’t wish to be seen as having
its foreign policy influenced by the Left”26. “Iran is the knife the Left has been driving into
the Congress an inch deeper every week”27.

The joint rally the Left and the SP held in Lucknow on the issue on November 14 “reeked
of political blackmail, an expression of the Left’s willingness to use the numbers game in
Parliament to handicap the government”28. The Congress is indeed electorally still too
weak to take the Left’s challenge match threat with threat. “The Iran issue has brought to
the fore the ideological discord between the Left and the Congress, which expresses its
annoyance over the manner in which the communists have been berating and threatening
the UPA government”29.They are in the middle of a popular episode in which they have
been gassing so much that people have forgotten all about the Iranian gas pipeline. The
Marxists brothers fought for Iran’s right to deal with Pakistan’s Dr A.Q. Khan by making
sure India couldn’t stand with America’s George Bush. ‘Don’t vote against the Iran in the
IAEA,’ they yelled”30. One of the articles in the India Today says, “While the Left treats
the issue as a litmus test for the UOA alliance, the government will have to ensure that
political expediency doesn’t prevail over diplomatic realism”31.

Without thinking or rethinking, “the Marxists Brothers will fight for Iran’s independence
till the last breath”32. “Actually, by making such a furore, it is the Left which has
dangerously damaged India’s independent foreign policy and virtually sought to give
Teheran a veto on our policy making processes”33. It further observes that “the Left seems

“The Persian Riddle”, Outlook, November 28, 2005, (V. Sudarshan and Smita Gupta), Pg 55.
“Bull’s eye”, Rajinder Puri, Outlook, December, 2005, Pg.12.
“The Balancing Act”, Saurabh Shukla, India Today, November 28, 2005, Pg 32.
“Bull’s eye”, Rajinder Puri,Outlook,December,2005,Pg.12.
“Iran and our foreign policy”,(editorial),Hindustan Times, November 21,2005.
determined to thoughtlessly make New Delhi feeble and helpless by insisting that it back
Iran”34.The Telegraph writes in one of its articles, “the communists’ motives in making the
Iranian question a prestige issue are plainly suspect”35. But, after all the CPM’s criticisms -
-ended no result as on February 2, the IAEA board if governors voted to report Iran to the
UN Security Council over its suspected nuclear weapons programme. 27 members
including India had voted for the resolution. Achin Vanaik writes in EPW that by
criticizing the UPA government “the Left falls guilty into line behind the Russian and the
Chinese, who themselves have backtracked vis-à-vis the US on the issue”36.

Maintaining and furthering its legacy of criticizing the government just for the sake of
criticizing, the CPM vehemently opposed the Indo-US nuclear deal and US-Indian Defense
Pact signed by the UPA. The General Secretary, CPM, Prakash Karat expressed his views
in these terms, “Let the agreement remain a framework, do not add flesh to it and put it in
the dustbin”37. Clarifying his stand on criticising the deal, he says, “we will intervene as
and when required”38. On some other occasion, he remarked, “the Vajpayee government
had started signing military and defense\e pacts with the US. This agreement will only
further India’s entry into America’s orbit”39. The CPM feels that the deal is a sign that
India is straying from Non Alignment and “it (deal) was fraught with serious
consequences”40 for the country’s strategic and security interests. A statement issued on
July1, 2005 by the politburo of the CPI (M), said, “The UPA’s pact with United States
would help serve US strategic goals in Asia. If this agreement is carried forward, India will
be placing itself in the sane category as Japan, South Korea, and Philippines – all
traditional military allies of the United States”41.

The CPM charged the UPA government with not being in consonance with the
commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy and promoting multi-polarity in

“A bombs too msny”, Swapan Dasgupta, The Telegraph, March 18,2005.
“The Iran Issue”, Achin Vanaik, EPW, February 11, 2006
“Accord will hurt security interests: Left”, The Hindu, July 9, 2005.
“Left’ Secret’ Salvo”, The Telegraph, July 9, 2005.
“Left slams defense pact with US”, The Hindu, July 2, 2005.
international relations as stated in the CMP. This statement also says that “it is surprising
that the UPA government has continued with the Vajpayee government’s policy with
regard to missile defense. The defense agreement comes at a time when the US is actively
working to prevent China from enhancing its defense potential”42. On the issue of nuclear
agreemeht, the CPI (M) said that “the UPA government is continuing with the NDA
regime’s undemocratic practice of signing agreements secretly”43. It actually believed the
joint statement was a continuation of the pro-US shift in India’s foreign policy that was
initiated by the Vajpayee regime and was carried forward by the June 28 India-US Defense
Framework which the entire Left had severely criticized. Party’s general secretary Prakash
Karat made it clear that “the CPM will voice its criticisms of the Prime Minister’s
statement in Parliament and outside”44 and “the party, through nationwide seminars and
meetings, would focus on what in the agreement was harmful for India’s strategic and
security interests”45. He said, “the trend of becoming a strategic ally, started by the
erstwhile NDA government continues”46. Criticizing all the three aspects of Indo-US
relations-the joint statement, Indo-US Defense Framework agreement and the nuclear
issue, the CPM perceived it as, “the continuation of the trend of New Delhi being
accommodated as an ally of Washington”47. Prakash karat declared that” his party had
serious criticisms of the military cooperation agreement, and overall approach and content
of the recent joint statement signed at the end of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s
visit to the US”48. He said that the party would not only raise its apprehensions on the
Indo-US agreements in Parliament but educate people”49. The CPM felt that in the wake of
the India-US defense framework agreement, the deepening military collaboration with the
United States did not augur well for India’s strategic interests and independent foreign

“CPI(M) objects to defense deal with the US”, The Hindu, July3, 2005.
“Left goes Ballistic on nuclear deal”, Hindustan Times, July22, 2005
“Left draws US,BHEL battle lines”, The Telegraph, August1, 2005.
“Nuclear issue cannot be seen in isolation: CPI(M)”, The Hindu, August 1, 2005.
“Agreement with US ignores nation’s security interests, says CPI(M)”, The Hindu, August 30, 2005.
“Left paws UPA on US deal”, Deepak Razdan, Hindustan Times, August 8, 2005.
Countering the Left, the PM pointed out that the “Congress was the architect of the non-
aligned movement and it would be a mistake to think that any Prime Minister of the party
would sell India cheap. India is not for sale”50. There was a distinctive dichotomy in the
views within the CPI(M) itself, when while Jyoti Basu uttered, “the PM’s statement (on his
US trip) in Parliament is generally okay”51 and termed the Indo-US agreement as “all
right”52, Prakash Karat described his statement as “unbalanced and inequitable”53.
Addressing the Indo-Us deal as a pretty good deal, Hindustan Times writes in its editorial
that through this deal “we do get to keep our declared military facilities out – and can make
as many nuclear bombs as the Left critics want – in exchange for the Nuclear Suppliers
Group unshackling India’s civil nuclear power programme. If there is another way to
achieve this, we have certainly not heard about it as yet”54.

The week in one of its articles criticized the CPM as “having drawn a crop of their top
leaders from Cambridge, they are soft on good old England, but hate Washington which
pointed missiles towards Moscow”55 It writes that there is no doubt that there was no
agreement, only a framework for cooperation but ‘it was enough for the Leftists to cry
foul’. Acting on a theoretical assumption that the framework agreement of the Indo-US
defense Pact would encourage arms race in the region and was aimed at serving the
interests of the military infrastructure of the US and Europe, the CPM consistently
criticized the Prime Minister for opening an unwarranted and unjustified war front against
them and made it clear that they will continue to oppose UPA’s tilt towards the US and
economic policies detrimental to the interests if the country. Charging PM as ‘intellectually
dishonest’, the CPI (M) leader Nilotpal Basu said, “the Prime Minister is slapping his own
face”56. Prakash Karat, once during his speech at politburo meeting, said, “the framework
of the Indo-US defense relations should be rejected. Let it remain just a framework
skeleton. It should not be fleshed out”57. Giving the examples of issues of Patents

“India is not for sale”, The Hindu, July 17, 2005.
“Storm over Singh’s US trip dies down”, The Telegraph, July 31, 2005.
“Lid on top, differences in CPM simmer“, Ashish Chakrabarti, The Telegraph, August 8, 2005.
“A pretty good deal”, Hindustan Times, November 7,2005.
“On thin ice”, R. Prasannan, The Week, July 24,2005,Pg 43.
“CPI(M), CPI attack PM, UPA govt”, Outlook, March 19, 2005.
“Reject This Framework Of Indo-US Relations : Karat”, People’s Democracy, July 17, 2005, Pg 8.
Ordinance, the privatization of the Pension Fund for government employees, and the
takeover of the private banks by the foreign banks by allowing them to acquire 74% of
shares, “Prakash Karat charged the UPA with pursuing policies through ordinances, which
was inherently undemocratic”58. He uttered, “the CPM is unhappy with the way the UPA is
pushing through certain measures in the interests of big businesses and foreign capital”59.
He further explained that “previous Congress governments would often bypass Parliament
and promulgate ordinances in disregard of popular expectations. This is a very old habit of
Congress. We called it the Congress ordinance raj”60.

Showing his unhappiness with the Manmohan Singh government, he said that the UPA is
trying to delay and refuse “to take measures that concern the interests of the working class
and the working people”61. The CPM described as an unwarranted step, the decision of the
UPA government to scrap Press Note 18, and charged that the move followed pressure
from multinational companies. Scrapping this note means that in joint ventures, the
interests of the Indian companies cannot be protected against the foreign partner. The party
termed the RBI governor’s suggestion that foreign institutional investors be taxed as
“another instance of government’s undue sensitivity to the whims of the international
capital”62. Accusing the Manmohan Singh government of compromising the country’s
national sovereignty, Prakash Karat declared that the threat to hurt the country’s national
sovereignty attempted by the NDA government “persists even today despite the installation
of the new government at the centre”63. He uttered, “the CPM is supporting the
government only to keep the BJP-NDA out of power. The CPM sees no fundamental
difference between the policies of the NDA and the UPA”64. He further cleared his party’s
stand on Patents Bill by saying, “we are not going to accept the Patent Amendment Bill
which will hike the drug prices”65. He firmly stood with his views that “the CPM would
not accept any hike in FDI cap in print media or in the telecom, insurance and civil

“Pursuing policies through ordinances undemocratic, says Karat”, The Hindu, January 11, 2005.
“Karat in ordinance caution”, The Telegraph, January 11, 2005.
“Left decries move to scrap Press Note 18”, The Hindu, January14, 2005.
“Karat fires sovereignty salvo at centre”, The Telegraph, January 26, 2005.
aviation sectors”66. Opposing the government’s decision to hike the FDI cap in the telecom
sector from 49 to 74 per cent, the CPM described it as unfortunate and said that “it would
oppose the decision both inside and outside Parliament as it was not being in the interest of
the country and had serious security implications”67. Some of the issues like the Patents
Act, allowing foreign banks to purchase shares of private Indian banks and other banking
reforms and disinvestment of profit making PSU’s are generally considered by the CPM as
detrimental to India’s economic sovereignty. Regarding the FDI in telecom, Sitaram
Yechury pointed out, “we register our strong protest against the Union Cabinet’s decision
to hike FDI from 49 to 74 per cent in the telecom sector”68. “the Left rarely suspends its
hostility, even if temporarily, towards the government’s key policies”69.

Showing a kind of partial satisfaction with the implementation of the Common Minimum
Programme (CMP) by the UPA so far, the CPI (M) thought that a lot remains to be done.
CPI (M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury committed that ‘the party is keeping pressure
on the centre to implement what remains to be done with speed’. Responding to a question
asked by the media, Mr. Prakash Karat remarked, “the Left parties are providing support to
the UPA from outside to keep the BJP at bay as well as to make sure that the CMP is
implemented. We are in the process of engaging the government on these issues. We are
not talking of withdrawing support”70. He added that “the expression of unhappiness did
not mean it (CPM) was considering drastic steps like withdrawing support from the
alliance”71. Commenting on the CPM’s views towards the FDI, the Telegraph writes, “the
Left, if has its way, will not allow the Manmohan Singh government to raise the FDI limit
in any sector, as telecom, insurance, civil aviation or even the print media”72. Speaking to
the media on February 5, 2005, Karat cautioned “the UPA government will face political
repercussions before the budget for implementing ‘anti people policies’. The Left parties’

“Left opposes FDI hike, says it has security implications”, Hindustan Times, February 3, 2005.
“FDI protest meet”, The Telegraph, February 3, 2005.
"CPI(M) will maintain pressure on centre, says Yechury", Marcus Dam, The Hindu, January 17, 2005.
“Pursuing policies through ordinances undemocratic, says Karat", The Hindu, January 11, 2005.
“Karat in ordinance action”, The Telegraph, January 11, 2005.
“Print FDI storm brews”, The Telegraph, January 23, 2005.
support to the government is based on political perspectives but it could not be a one way

After the final discussion of the government to increase the limit of foreign holding in the
telecom sector to 74 %, the CPM leader Jyoti Basu expressed his anguish in these words,
“the centre has been violating the United Progressive Alliance’ s CMP. The government
will not complete its five year term even with our support, if it behaves this way”74.
Making his party’ s stand to the UPA government at a seminar organized on the occasion
of the 21st State Conference of the CPI(M) at Kamarhiti in North 24 Parganas, CPI(M)
politburo member Prakash Karat commented, “our support to the UPA government is not
for the continuation of the discredited policies of the previous government. We have no
illusion after 9 months of the UPA government being in power we still believe that
Congress is the Congress. A leopard does not change its spots”75. In his view, the
Manmohan Singh government swears by the CMP but has failed to implement certain
provisions which meant tom protect the interests of the poor. He said that, “the Left wants
this government to continue but it is not our responsibility that it stays in power. We have
told them that the responsibility also lies with the ruling coalition which needs to fulfill the
CMP. Keeping the coalition comprising 12 or 13 separate parties is not our
responsibility”76. Asserting the similarity between the NDA and the UPA regime, he
remarked, “we will continue our fight against the government both inside the Parliament
and outside to prevent any assault on the rights of the working class and the peasantry”77.
Giving a warning note to the government, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee expressed, “we are
supporting the UPA government only on the basis of certain conditions. We cannot support
them if they go to the same way (as the previous government). We have told Delhi that we
are supporting you but don’t ignore us”78. On the very occasion of the 21st West Bengal
state conference of the party, Jyoti Basu termed the present situation as ‘complex’ and
declared that, “we have told them ( the UPA government ) be there (in power) for five

“Karat warns govt against anti-people policies”, The Hindu, January 6, 2005.
“Centre bashing , left and right”, The Telegraph , February 5, 2005.
“Support not for continuation of discredited policies”, Marcus Dam, The Hindu, February 12,2005.
“CPI(M) willing to give UPA govt more time”, The Hindu, February 13, 2005.
years. We could never imagine supporting the Congress on the basis of the CMP after
having opposed the party for over the past 45 years. But, the Congress still opposes us in
the states. We need to understand this better”79.

This shows that their (CPM’s) criticisms did not end with issues related to moves to
increase FDI in key sectors but it also went on to the centre’s disinvestment policies,
which it has pointed out, were not different from the policies of the NDA government.
Speaking in a seminar in Mallapuram, Sitaram Yechury warned the government against
violating the CMP by saying, “the stability of the UPA government at the centre depends
on its sincerity to CMP and not on the Left parties”80. He warned, “the moment you (UPA
government) deviate from CMP, the Left will be the first to go to the people to mobilize
public opinion against you”81. Launching a biting attack on the UPA government and
signaling the CPM will not allow the government to breathe easy even though political
compulsions prevent it from pulling it down, Sitaram Yechury remarked, “we are
watchdogs and not anybody’s pet dog. When they bark the government will have to listen.
If it does not, the dog will bite which will be too harsh. The Left would not hesitate to
withdraw its support to the government if the Congress fails to adhere to the CMP”82. It
appears that the CPM was making a calculated move in stepping up its anti-Congress
rhetoric not only because of the centre’s disregard for the Left’s suggestion on economic
policies but also in view of the Bengal and Kerala Assembly elections which are going on.
It seems the Left seemed to have realized that the UPA regime will not jettison its
economic agenda because of their pressure because the government took so many hard
decisions on reforms despite its objections. The government raised the cap on FDI to 79%
in telecom, took the first steps to free public sector banks from government control. It also
talked about bringing FDI in retail, real estate and the print media, unbundling the power
sector and divesting shares of well-heeled public sector undertakings.

“UPA govt’s stability depends on its sincerity to CMP”, The Hindu, February 21, 2005.
“Left’s pet soundbite”, The Telegraph, February 22, 2005.
A Left leader on all these government’s moves, remarked, “we will create noise in
Parliament over their policies and will carry on struggles and maneuvers outside”83. Jyoti
Basu, while speaking to the media on 1st April, advised the Congress to be self critical on
economic policies while adhering to the Common Minimum Programme. On the eve of the
CPI (M)’s 18th Party Congress, general secretary H.S. Surjeet raised doubts about the
longevity of the Congress led UPA at the centre. He said in an article in People’s
Democracy that the present national-level correlation of forces cannot continue for long. In
support of his conclusion, Surjeet made a specific reference to the passage of the Patents
Bill – which the CPI(M) backed in Parliament after forcing several amendments – “to
illustrate the Marxists dilemma of being identified with the UPA’s economic policies
primarily to keep the BJP at bay”84. In his inaugural address to the CPM’s 18th Congress,
H.S.Surjeet remarked, “while we extend support to the UPA government to meet the
exigencies of the current situation, let us make it clear that there will be no giving up on
our basic agenda”85. At a programme organized by the Chennai Press club on April 23,
Prakash Karat said, “if this government doesn’t perform, then it will be in trouble not
because of us, but because of its own inaction or failure,”86. Prakash Karat, general
secretary of the CPI(M) writes in an article in the party organ the People’s Democracy that,
“the class character of the Congress and the performance of the UPA government which
pursues policies of liberalization are bound to impact the livelihood and living conditions
of people. On the ground, people cannot experience any change – the agrarian distress
continues, the crisis of – and traditional industries getting worse, the repeated increases in
prices of petroleum products is heaping additional burden on the people. All this is bound
to generate discontent in the coming days”87. He said that, “the Congress cannot be relied
upon to carry out a consistent struggle against communalism and divisive forces”88.

Arguing for a need of a third alternative, he stated, “it is not in the interests of the Left and
democratic forces, that two bourgeois combinations, one headed by the BJP and the other

“Sound and fury over breakfast”, The Telegraph, February 24, 2005.
“Left alarm for UPA”, Deepak Razdan, Hindustan Times, April 5, 2005.
“CPM lectures Cong’, The Telegraph, April 7, 2005.
“Left support based on policies, not intangibles, says Prakash Karat,”, The Hindu, April 24, 2005.
“Little has changed since UPA took over : Karat”, The Hindu, May 1, 2005.
by the Congress, monopolized the public space”89. Speaking at a rally in Kolkata on the
occasion of the May Day, Jyoti Basu warned the UPA government that, “if it continues to
pursue anti-people policies, the government would be punished”90. On BHEL
disinvestment issue, accusing the government of committing the “first serious breach”91 of
the CMP, “the CPI(M) warned of ‘serious repercussions’ if the government went ahead
with its decision to disinvest 10% shares in Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL)”92.
Prakash Karat said that his party felt that, “the sale of BHEL shares is not a piecemeal
decision”93. He said, “this policy is not acceptable. We shall meet the government
representatives and warn them of serious repercussions if it went ahead with the
disinvestment”94. He argued that, “ this is an insidious way of carrying out privatization of
a profit-making PSU”95. The CPM thinks that the privatization and disinvestment are co-
terminus and are not different issues and this was the reason it opposed BHEL move as a
matter of privatization. In protest against the disinvestment of state-owned BHEL, CPM
and other Left parties said in a letter to Sonia Gandhi that, “in the light of this
(disinvestment), we find no useful purpose will be served by attending the coordination
committee meetings. We have, therefore, regretfully decided to suspend our participation
in the committee”96.

Terming the government’s decision to disinvest BHEL the first serious violation of the
CMP, they sent a strong warning to the government, “right now we want to give a serious
message to the coalition leaders that we cannot be taken for granted on economic policies,
especially disinvestment”97. Addressing the silver jubilee celebrations of the Cochin
Shipyard Workers Union, on July 27, 2005, Sitaram Yechury remarked, “if the UPA
government faced any instability it would be caused only by the policies of the Congress
that often tended to deviate from the CMP. Congress made promises only to fool the

“UPA will be punished if it persisted with anti-people policies”, The Hindu, May 2, 2005.
“BHEL move first serious breach of CMP: Karat”, Hindustan Times, June 6, 2005.
“Left bares teeth on BHEL”, The Telegraph, June 27, 2005.
“No more talks, Left gives up on UPA”, Hindustan Times, June 27, 2005.
people”98. In fact, the CPI(M) criticized the government on almost every issue like Patent
Bill, Pension Bill, Banking reforms, Women Reservation Bill, privatization in academic
institutions, hike in the prices of petroleum products, Electricity Bill, FDI in telecom,
Centaur Hotel issue, Posco deal, Iran gas pipeline, India’s military cooperation to Nepal,
Indo-US defense framework and nuclear deal, airports privatization, disinvestment of
BHEL stocks, commercialization of education, Gurgaon Honda accident, Water
privatization etc, - the list is endless.

Displaying a fight within the CPM, the Telegraph writes in its editorial that, “those who
want to change things should know what they are up against”99. This is regarding the West
Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s reformist agenda in the West Bengal. It
writes that some of his comrades, acting as his worst enemies, still question his single-
minded commitment to usher in a new phase of industrialization of West Bengal and, “they
represent the Marxist old guard whose obscurantist policies and practices were largely
responsible for state’s industrial decline”100. “Given the history of the CPI(M)’s opposition
for economic modernization, it is perhaps necessary for the Chief Minister to periodically
reiterate his position”101, of not shying away from the fight within the party over his pro-
change policies. He cannot afford to let “quibbling comrades’102 destroy this new hope for

Stating that the best of times can sometimes cause the worst of confusions, the Telegraph
writes in its editorial that, “the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is clearly riddles with
such confusions”103. This editorial says that, “except in brief and largely inglorious regime
of the United Front, the party never had the kind of impact on nationalist politics that it has
now because of the support to the United Progressive Alliance government”104. But this
new found role seems to have confounded the party, making it go into rhetorical overdrives
in an attempt to wriggle out of its confusion and dilemmas. “The Marxists have taken the
“Left to pressure Centre into implementing CMP”, The Hindu, July 25, 2005.
“Make Way”,(editorial), The Telegraph, January 5, 2005.
“Confused State”, (editorial), The Telegraph, January 12, 2005.
Congress to a task for allegedly bypassing Parliament on important economic issues like
the privatization of pension funds of government employees, patents and the sale of 74%
of the equity of private banks to the foreign investors”105. The CPI(M) has also complained
that the government has dragged its feet on legislation relating to protecting the interests of
workers and charged the Congress with pursuing its own agenda of benefiting big
businesses and foreign capital. The Telegraph writes that there is no doubt that any attempt
to undermine the importance of Parliament will weaken democracy. But the main thrust of
the CPI(M) “ charge sheet smacks of familiar Left rhetoric against economic
liberalization”106, the real point about the accusation could well be what they reveal about
the accuser.

The CPI(M) knew about the Congress’s position on contentious economic issues but it
decided to support the UPA government in spite of its differences with the Congress on
these issues. “The criticisms, therefore, betray the CPI(M)’s own dilemma over dealing
with the contradictions that have marked its support to a Congress-led government and the
dilemmas expressed itself in different voices within the party’s leadership on how to reign
in the Congress”107. Mr. Prakash Karat sounded tougher than Mr. Basu who advised his
comrades not to rock the UPA boat by asking the government too much too soon. So,
“there is no mistaking, though, a design in the Marxists’ saber-rattling”108. “The rhetoric is
also aimed at the party’s rank and file, which must have the illusion of a fight with
bourgeois parties like Congress”109. While criticizing the CPI(M), the Hindustan Times, in
one of its editorials, wrote, “admitting mistakes can be a difficult job for us. But admitting
mistakes and then making a course correction can be especially painful for a political party
that has always had ideology as its running motor”110.

Quoting Mr. Bhattacharjee, who just made sure that there was no exit clause for turning
back on the new course that the Left in the state has taken by declaring that, “Marxists are

“Left foot forward”, (editorial), Hindustan Times, January 15, 2005.
not fools to cling to obsolete ideas”111 by requesting the communists “to go and tell the
world that we are changing”112 and by making clear that “in West Bengal, the Left is right
and this is the right place to invest in”113; this article says that “while Messrs Surjeet, Karat
and Yechury await the Revolution, comrade Bhattacharjee had understood that ideology
has to serve the concerns of the people and not the other way round”114. Terming the Delhi
communists as theoreticians because of their ever allergic nature of taking on
governmental responsibilities even when given the opportunity, this article says that the “
old ideologies don’t bring investment, industry and enterprise to the people who
desperately need them”115. On the issue of scrapping Press Note 18 which was much
criticized by the Left parties, the Telegraph writes, “ the UPA has not scrapped Press Note
18 which should have been done”116. It says that retaining the Press Note for several
existing joint ventures that are alive, but scrapping it for future ones “seems to be a
sensible way of handling the political economy of resistance in other reform areas as

In place of the habit of thinking of India as a monolith, epitomized by the elegant

simplicity of its all-India line, the CPI(M) worked on a new draft. Its political resolution
had a message of overhauling the ways in which the party comprehends political, social
and economic reality. The resolution talks about a tectonic shift which shows that now
CPI(M) is compelled to recognize that it urgently needs a new roadmap. The CPI(M) is no
longer a party of opposition to every political formation barring itself and its partners but it
has suddenly acquired a position which was ‘undreamt of even a year ago’, as Sitaram
Yechury stated. By identifying the challenges facing the party and the polity –
checkmating communal forces, tempering reforms, finding new forms of struggle,
resisting economic exploitation and fighting social oppression; the party has set itself a
fiendishly difficult task that it needs to start on a hellishly hectic pace.

“Signpost”, (editorial), The Telegraph, January 18, 2005
Trained to think ‘history’ as a grand design in which the communist movement is
ultimately alone in its ‘vanguard of the people’ role, the CPI(M), being unprepared, has to
deal with the ‘remnants of the 20th century’ within its own ranks apart from fighting with
the other ideologies. “Given its shift from opposition to composition, the party has lost the
old certainties about what constitutes ‘anti-people’ and what makes a policy or decision in
the people’s favour”118.

The Hindustan Times, in one of its editorial articles, writes “the CPI(M) is a strange mix of
the quixotic, contrarian and the realistic. On the one hand, the party has played a great
historical role in secularizing Indian politics, a task manifested by its current role as a
principal supporter of the UPA government. On the other hand, the party still hankers after
the Third Front, a chimerical entity, whose ever tottering United Front arguably aided the
rise of the BJP-led NDA”119. It criticizes the CPI(M)’s refusing approach to accept the
primacy of the US by saying “opposing the US on ideological grounds is legitimate
enough, but not recognizing its strength is to deny an effective means of pursuing
policy”120. Quoting Mao Zedong, an icon of the party who once said that ‘despise your
enemy strategically but respect him tactically’ , this article says that “tactical ability, call it
flexibility if you will is one item in extremely short supply among our comrades”121.

The debate and discussion of the 18th CPI(M) Party congress being held in Delhi, from
April 6-11, 2005 appear like so many efforts to square the circle. “A quarter century after it
established itself in West Bengal, its main achievement remains its continuance as the
ruling party of the state”122. It has lost ground in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Punjab
and failed to strike roots in UP and Bihar. “Espousing a resolution is fine as a means of
mobilizing cadre, but making revolution in this day and age is quite another thing. Armed
revolution is certainly not around the corner, and nor, because of the party’s own

“Marxism, Take Two”, Shikha Mukherjee, Hindustan Times, January 20, 2005
“Left Behind”, (editorial), Hindustan Times, April 9, 2005.
inflexibility, is a ‘people’s democratic government’ – code for a coalition led by the

The Telegraph comments on the new changes made by the CPI(M)’s 18th Congress in the
party as “watching the changes within the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is like
watching a giant tanker turning on its axis in the high seas”124. The first meeting of the
CPI(M)’s Central Committee, under the new general secretary Prakash Karat, signalled
a major but not unexpected turnaround in their approach and attitude towards foreign
funding which was earlier, in the party jargon, seen as instruments of ‘neo-imperialism’,
and this change, it seems, has been possible largely at the behest of the chief minister of
West Bengal, Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

“It is difficult to comprehend the Left’s distrust of Dr Manmohan Singh and his
government, and their trust in Ms Gandhi. The Left seems to be proceeding on the
assumption that Ms Gandhi is a little more sympathetic to its protestations than the Prime
Minister”125. Till they met the Congress president, the Left leaders behaved like petulant
children and stayed away from meetings of the coordination committee of the UPA. The
grouse of the Left was not just about disinvestments in BHEL, but it had a bigger and a
more fundamental objection. It is opposed to economic reforms. “The Left has to choose
between its economic ideology and its political goals”126 because if it decides to pull out of
the UPA government due to its objections to the governments economic reforms, then it
will create an opportunity for the BJP to attempt a comeback.

The Left’s confusion is rooted in another contradiction. The economic policies that the Left
criticizes are exactly the same as the ones pursued by the Left Front government in West
Bengal. “The is no bigger champion of economic reforms than Mr. Buddhadeb
Bhattacharjee, the chief minister of West Bengal. In his pursuit of investment in West
Bengal, Mr. Bhattacharjee has adopted policies that go against all that the Left has stood

“Slow Change”, (editorial), The Telegraph, June 9, 2005.
“Left’s nerves”, (editorial), The Telegraph, July 11, 2005.
for”127. He has welcomed multinationals, spoken in favour of free markets and has even
declared that he agrees to disagree with his comrades in New Delhi. “The Left’s
schizophrenia has become more and more pronounced. Mr. Bhattacharjee speaks in one
voice about economic reforms and Mr. Prakash Karat, the general secretary of the CPI(M),
in another”128. The political fallout of this divergence is difficult to fathom, but it would
appear from another divergence between words and deeds, that the Left will continue to
protest without actually pulling the carpet from under the UPA.

“The threat to Mr. Singh’s leadership abilities comes from those who see themselves as the
champions of the word ‘progressive’ within the UPA”129. The Left has thwarted every
attempt made by the Prime Minister to push through economic reforms. It has stopped
disinvestment, it has prevented the entry of FDI in certain sectors, it has raised a hue and
cry every time there has been a hike in the price of oil, it has opposed pension reforms and
reforms of the labour market; and moreover it has tried to tell the PM about how he should
conduct himself during his negotiations with the President of the USA. “the Left has about
60 members in the Lok Sabha, and on the basis of this it is trying to hold Mr. Singh’s
government at ransom”130.

Ramachandra Guha, in an article in The Telegraph, points out that “ it is a great pity that
their(communists) often honourable practice is crippled with an archaic and outmoded
theory. For if the history of the 20th century teaches us anything, it is this-that
parliamentary democracy is, despite all its faults, superior totalitarianisms of Left and
Right; and that the market is, despite all its faults, a more efficient and cheaper allocator of
economic resources than the state”131. He, in this very article, also tells about a third lesson
that “despite all their faults, Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar are thinkers more
relevant to the practice of politics in India than are Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin”132. But
it is a sad part of the CPI(M) that it still discusses the works of these latter quartet in the

“Sign the tune”,(editorial), The Telegraph, July19, 2005.
“Spaniard and Indian”, Ramachandra Guha, The Telegraph, July 23, 2005.
party workshops and adorns the portraits of these figures in its offices. In practice their
(CPM’s) ideologies seem somewhat reconciled to parliamentary democracy, but they
retain an irrational hostility to private enterprise, are still hostile to intellectual debate and
dialogue, and yet cling to a faith in their party’s infallibility.

What West Bengal thinks today, Delhi does not think today or tomorrow. This is the
conclusion that suggests itself from the two different poles emanating from the CPI(M).
the headquarters of the CPI(M) in Gopalan Bhavan in New Delhi has views which are
contradictory to those expressed by comrades in West Bengal. It shows that the view of
Mr. Prakash Karat, the general secretary of the CPI(M), are those of the party headquarters
and the opinions and actions of Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister of West
Bengal, represent the stand favoured by the West Bengal unit of the party. Mr. Karat and
his supporters in Delhi are distinctly uncomfortable with globalization and many aspects of
the economic reforms agenda. They cannot accept the new ties between India and the USA
that have been established after Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington. The very idea of
disinvestment in BHEL sends comrades in Delhi into a tizzy.

All these would have been par for the course of a communist party but for the fact that the
former chief minister of West Bengal Mr. Jyoti Basu, who is still a member of the CPI(M)
politburo finds nothing objectionable in the joint statement issued by the US President and
the Indian Prime Minister. Further, Mr. Bhattacharjee is a keen advocator of economic
reforms and his government plans to disinvest from selected public sector units. “The
CPI(M) has either become a party with two distinct voices, or it has mastered the art of
speaking in a forked tongue”133. This schizophrenia of the CPI(M) might be rooted in the
fact that the party has to rule West Bengal, but in Delhi it has no such responsibility. Mr.
Bhattacharjee knows that without investments, West Bengal is a red desert. “He has not
allowed ideology to cloud his judgment of what is good for the state he rules. Mr. Karat,
on the other hand, sees the CPI(M) as Mr. Singh’s loyal opposition. The central leadership
of the CPI(M) has no sense of responsibility but has an illusion of power”134.

“Dual Tone”, (editorial), The Telegraph, August 3.2005.
For 23 months, the Left has refused to be a part of the UPA government, but ahs exercised
a veto power on its economic policies. It has prevented all labour law reforms, sopped the
closure of even chronically loss making public enterprises, prevented the investment of a
fraction of pension funds in the share markets and, most successfully opposed the sale of
10% of the shares of the BHEL and 8% of the shares of Maruti Udyog to raise money for
the much needed National Investment Fund. “Each and every measure that the Left has
forced the government to take or defer had only one effect – slowing down the growth of
employment”135. The Hindustan Times, once wrote in its editorial, “in case any one ever
wondered why the Left parties never thought it fit to join the UPA government, here’s the
answer: how could they have been in power and have attempted to bring the nation to its

Commenting on the harmful and pointless nature of strikes, this article asks the
communists, “what is the Left making the life of a nation’s citizenry miserable for?”137.
The Left is protesting against the governments economic policies, disinvestment, dilution
of labour laws, the IAEA vote, pretty much everything short of not having a communist
PM. “In the Left’s reckoning, the consumers and employees of airports, ports, banks,
telecom and postal offices don’t figure in the cluster that it supposedly represents, the
people. What the Left leaders seem to believe is the inalienable rights of members of trade
unions”138. This article puts a question before the Left parties that “if they are so angry
with the government that they are willing to literally thrash it outside Parliament, what on
earth are they doing in Parliament?”139.

Commenting on the Left parties return to the UPA-Left coordination committee meetings,
the Hindustan Times in its editorial writes “after the UPA government rolled back and
decided to exclude profit making PSU's from the disinvestment list - through the

“Red between the lines”, Prem Shankar Jha, Hindustan Times, August
12, 2005.
“Red riding hoods”, (editorial), September 30, 2005.
assurances made to the Left by Manmohan Singh as well as Sonia Gandhi – there was no
reason why the comrades should continue with their self-imposed exile”140.

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat thinks the Prime Minister is directly responsible
for what he calls the new direction of India’s foreign policy. “Unfortunately, Mr. Karat
sees the Iran issue in a different light. In fact, he sees pretty much everything in a different
light. That is his strength as a politician; that is his weakness as a rational human being”141.
This sarcastic comment was made by Hindustan Times in one of its editorial comments. It
pointed out that “Mr. Karat has become the K S Sudarshan of the Left; the ideologue trying
to pull the ship through a desert, only to find that the ship’s going to sea while he is left
with the anchor in his hands”142

Arguing that the “sectarian politics often masquerades as economic logic”143, the
Telegraph in its editorial comments, writes, “a good example of this is the Left’s
opposition to the privatization of the airports”144. The Left’s argument that the move of
privatization of airports is a violation of the CMP “suggests that the Left wants to use it,
not as a guiding principle of economic strategy, but as a tool with which to stall

The problem in the privatization of airports “lies in the Left clinging on to the dogma that
every private company joining the task of cleaning up the industry’s attic will be an Enron
like monster just waiting to take over Indian land and air territories”146. But, “those
opposing it tooth and nail don’t seem to have any alternative model of making things

“They’re back”, (editorial), Hindustan Times, October 15, 2005.
“The Left’s sarsanghchalak”,(editorial), Hindustan Times, October 1, 2005.
“Stalling Tactics”,(editorial), The Telegraph, November 30, 2005.
“Left grounded”,(editorial), Hindustan Times, December 17, 2005.
The CPI(M) is against the foreign universities setting up branches in India and entry of
foreign institutions in the health sector, but, if the paranoia about cultural pollution can be
dismissed as irrepressible pathology, the whole argument “detracts from the really serious
issues and boils down to the CPI(M)’s ne4urotic fear of loosing control”148 over branches
of foreign universities.

“There are some political parties that suffer from a deep insecurity they need attention all
the time, and are terrified of oblivion when they think that people are managing to get on
their every day lives too smoothly or, even more alarming, might even manage to enjoy
themselves during a festive season”149. On CPI(M)’s proposed rally on December 28 at the
Brigade Parade Grounds managed by the Eastern Command of the army which had
decided not to allow any public function there, The Telegraph says that the CPM “must
have its rally on December 28, and it must, true to its spoilt nature, have it on the Brigade
Parade Grounds. Work culture, a smooth and civilized urban life, the preserving of the
environment – these are obviously no where on the horizon of the CPI(M)’s intellect”150

Speaking to his comrades in Kerala on the occasion of the second International Congress
on Kerala Studies, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the poster boy of reforms, said, “the IMF,
World Bank and the WTO are shaping the world economy and we have to swim against
the tide. The need of the hour is to evolve an alternative governance agenda. The Left
cannot grow in isolation”151. He advised to the red comrades of Kerala, “don’t follow a
pure communist or socialist path, but choose an alternative governance agenda”152.
‘Reform is for the government and not for the party’. This appears to be the prevalent
mood and dictum within the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Communist parties,
when they existed elsewhere in the globe, were invariably severe on members who voiced
their criticism and grievances against the party in public. Sometimes, especially in the high
noon of Stalin’s tyranny, the expression of criticism and dissent even within the party
could be fatal. The CPI(M) in West Bengal has chosen to swim with the tide of economic

“Touch of Fear”,(editorial), The Telegraph, December 12, 2005.
“Dreaming of Green,(editorial), The Telegraph, December 24, 2005.
“Buddha sells brand Bengal to Kerala”, Hindustan Times, December 10, 2005.
reforms but is unwilling to let in criticism and dissent within its ranks. The attempt is to
show that the entire party is completely and united behind the policies that are being
formulated by the government led by Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “These policies are all
to do with getting back capital to the state of West Bengal, and are therefore in keeping
with liberalization and globalization, to which communists are opposed in terms of
doctrine and ideology”153. For purposes of mobilization, in its rhetoric and its doctrinaire
formulations, the CPI(M) in West Bengal, till very recently, was anti – capital, and
virulently against multinationals. This situation has turned around 180 degrees and there
are questions, doubts and confusion. A government wedded to economic reforms and a
party still tied to democratic centralism are pulling contrary directions”154.

However often ‘imperialism’ is used as a’cuss word, the country’s dominant Marxist party,
CPI(M) has accepted that its future lies in conjunction with capitalism. This is not to
suggest that it has already adopted a capitalist path but there are still doubts, misgivings,
anxieties and enough hostility to cause consternation. Contrary to critics of the “Left – a
fraction group held together by vaguely ideological, but practical necessity – it has
virtually abandoned its once grandiose ambitions of utopian engineering”155. Instead it is
moving “to embrace international capital almost as enthusiastically as a the most militant
of liberalizers”156. The white paper issued by the CPI(M) on WTO negotiations and FDI in
retail “indicates a paradigm shift in the Marxist position on it’s ideologically – determined
confrontation with ‘imperialism’, described by Lenin as the ‘highest stage of

“For all the enthusiasm that Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee shows to woo private capital to
Bengal, the left parties continue to be prisoners of their old politics”158. “It is an ominous
signal that the Left stalls economic reforms as a price for its support to the UPA

“Speak no evil”,(editorial), The Telegraph, December 16, 2005.
“Marx and Spencer”, Shikha Mukherjee, Hindustan Times, November 11, 2005.
“Stalling Tactics”, (editorial), The Telegraph, November 30, 2005.
gove3rnment”159. The admission by the CPI(M) that the IT sector needs to be looked at
separately, and especially on the question of strikes and bandhs in this sector, shows “a
small but very important step in the orientation and attitude of the CPI(M), a party which
in the not so distant past was anti – computers”160.

Dialectics, as far as the old term goes, points to the existence or action of opposing social
forces and concepts. “But never did we, in our sweet philosophical lives, think that the
Indian communists’ take on dialectics would amount to doing diametrically opposite things
in different parts of the country”161. The CPI(M)’s politburo has come to the conclusion
that the IT sector too can have the luxury of calling for strikes. “The point that Mr.
\Bhattacharjee in Kolkata understands and Mr. Karat in Delhi doesn’t is that the IT sector
cannot simply be superimposed on the template of factory floors. The trouble is that ‘the
approaching Revolution’ means two diametrically different things for the two
gentlemen”162. This shows a stand of dualistic or double standards.

The Central Committee also decided to intensify its criticism of the UPA government for
deviating from the Common Minimum Programme with the clear objection of occupying
the slot of the opposition and yet not endangering the survival of the government. “when
Vietnam and China can go with America and the CPM can go with the Congress, what
prevents us having a business deal with Salim?”163. after his successful trip to southeast
Asia, the Bengal chief minister, Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has coined a slogan:
“reform, perform or perish”164 which even hardliner like Karat endorsed by saying that “we
are not dogmatic. With time our party has changed its stand on various issues. We are open
to change and have changed”165. ‘Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition
from mediocre minds’ – these are the words accompanying the portraits of the communist
leaders from Cuba to China in the Alimuddin Street office of the CPI(M) in Kolkata. These

“Cutting Wedge”, (editorial), The Telegraph, October 28, 2005.
“Striking difference”, (editorial), Hindustan Times, October 28, 2005.
“Bengal eyes China business”, Monobina Gupta, The Telegraph, September 2, 2005.
“Left talks reforms, PM waits for walk”, Radhikaramaseshan, The Telegraph, September 1, 2005.
“LF govt is pursuing a ‘rent-a-womb’ economic policy: Ashok Mitra”, The Telegraph, September 4,
wor5ds show that the chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spearheading reforms
despite opposition from a section of Marxists and other partners. CPI(M) leader Biman
Bose once commented “we are not against multinationals. We don’t, for example, ask
anyone not to use Parker pens because an MNC makes them”166. I think all these things
only corroborates the fact that in Bengal, Marxism and market are not contradictory. “On
every important matter of policy, the Left has forced the government to either withdraw or
go on the back foot. This has given rise to the very justified query: - who is ruling India,
the Congress or the Left?”167 In fact the Left has forced a slowdown of economic reforms.
It would not be an exaggeration to conclude that the Left has effectively throttled every
move made by the present government to take the Indian economy closer to being free and
competitive. “The Left would like the Indian economy to remain a subsidy raj, if not a
socialist one”168.

Ruling by proxy, the Left is allowed to enjoy power without responsibility, and the
Congress is happy to have responsibility without power. Showing a kind of ambiguity in
the approach of CPM, RSP leader Abani Roy commented, “we are opposed to giving
foreign investors control over our such sensitive areas as airports and telecom. The CPM
must resolve its contradictions”169.

The CPI(M) is a part of the United Progressive Alliance, but it has done more than those
who sit in the opposition benches in the Lok Sabha to bring reform and governance to a
standstill. “The Left has shamelessly used its numbers in the Lok Sabha to hold Mr.
Singh’s government to ransom and to stifle every move of the government to carry forward
economic reforms”170. The Prime Minister, by praising Mr. Bhattacharjee has, in fact,
drawn attention to the inexplicable contradiction in the CPI(M)’s position. In West Bengal,
under the exemplary leadership, the CPI(M) has undergone a 180 degree turn on the issue
of industrialization, emphasizing the need of economic reforms as the only mode of
survival in a world that has been transformed by globalization. Ha attracted investment to

“Ruling by Proxy”, (editorial), The Telegraph, August 21, 2005.
“Singh googly to left”, the Telegraph, August 25, 2005.
“Smiling Buddha”, (editorial), The Telegraph, August 28, 2005.
West Bengal, wooed private capital – Indian and foreign, openly admitted that the Left
made mistakes in the past by alienating capital and capitalists, and campaigned against
irrepressible trade unionism and the culture of bandhs. These efforts of Mr. Bhattacharjee
stand in sharp contrast to some of the pronouncements made by the party leadership in
New Delhi. The CPI(M) in New Delhi has consistently positioned itself against economic
reforms, - by opposing disinvestment, FDI in most areas and reforms in the labour market.
“If Mr. Bhattacharjee stands for the future, his party’s politburo stands for the past”171. The
tragedy is that “they (CPM leadership) cannot disown their most successful chief minister,
nor can they own up to economic reforms. Dinosaurs have to live with their own
contradictions till they evolve or become extinct”172.

Addressing his first press conference after his trip to Indonesia and Singapore,
Bhattacharjee said – “reform, perform or perish”173. He said that Marxism is not a dogma.
It is a science. We have to learn truth from facts. Commenting on the nominations of the
two very important members of CPM’s politburo, Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat to
the Rajya Sabha, The Telegraph writes, “it shows yet again that as the CPI(M) accepts the
primacy of the parliamentary path, it also has no qualms about reneging on political
morality”174 because this was the same party that presented a very different face in
opposing an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act,2003 moved by NDA,
which dispensed with the requirement that Rajya Sabha candidates must be ordinarily
resident in that state or territory from which they are seeking elections. The constitutional
bench of the Supreme Court has yet to come out with its final verdict on the petition filed
against this new law. “Marxists’ decision to nominate Yechury and Karat from Bengal is a
plain opportunism. The party has not only done a complete volte – face on its earlier stand,
it has also taken advantage of the delay in the court judgement. After this, any moral
ground that the party takes is laughable”175. This article further states that “the CPI(M)

“Comrades, reform!”, Alok Banerjee, Hindustan Times, August 30, 2005.
“Survival strategy”, Ashis Chakrabarti, The Telegraph, July 6, 2005.
double standards stand exposed by the Yechury – Karat episode”176. Like any other party,
it also believes that strategy, not morality, is the name of the game in politics.

The Left may have been one of the authors of the CMP, but it had never deigned to sign it.
That – along with the fact that it prefers to share power with the UPA without being part of
it – should give enough clues regarding the Left’s dreary and repetitive threats to the UPA.
The Hindustan Times writes in its editorial – “being a ‘conscience’ is not a full time job;
being a political outfit, however, is. With an identity of its own to perpetuate, keeping quiet
when it has nothing constructive to say is not a preferred option for the Left”177. On the
issue of pulling out of the UPA-Left coordination meetings, this article said that “it gives a
signal that the comrades are fighting tooth and nail to reverse their ‘anti-people’ decision
(disinvestment of BHEL). One has this niggling feeling that as elections approach in states
like West Bengal and Kerala, the ‘people’s parties’ will find other instances of the UPA
straying from the commitment in the CMP”178.

At the annual session and national conference of the Confederation of Indian Industry on
may 18, 2005, the then BJP president Lal Krishna Advani, questioned the Left’s
willingness to endorse China’s pursuit of economic reforms while advocating a different
line for India. He remarked “it is okay if China becomes a nuclear weapons state but India
must not. It is okay if the West Bengal CM can advocate economic reforms in Calcutta, but
the party must oppose the same reforms in Delhi irrespective of whether the NDA or UPA
is in power at the Centre”179. He further uttered “they opposed the introduction of
computers in banks and government offices which has led to greater efficiency. They
opposed the entry of private airlines which now has led to a boom in civil aviation. They
opposed the entry of the private sector in telecom which has led to a telecom revolution in
India”180. Warning the PM not to proceed in this path of vendetta, he said “the barking
communists may not bite but the action they and some others are pressurizing you to take

“Walk the Talk”, (editorial), Hindustan Times, June 28, 2005.
“Advani bites barking Left”, The Telegraph, May 19, 2005.
will certainly bite you”181. In his view “the first thing India must do to achieve double digit
inclusive growth was to marginalize the ideological and political influence of the
communists, as their policies would deliver neither inclusive growth nor double digit
growth”182. Criticizing the Left, he expressed-“it is ironic that those whose dogmatic
policies were a prescription for increasing poverty, perpetuating backwardness and
promoting corruption in bureaucracy are talking about inclusive growth”183. Talking about
the policies China pursued to achieve an impressive economic growth, he said that the
communists in India had always opposed and were continuing to oppose these policies.
They never thought about that the Soviet Union never achieved high growth.

Now after going to all these CPI(M)’s criticisms of UPA and media’s criticisms of
CPI(M)’s criticisms of UPA, we will discuss the CPI(M)’s attitude towards the UPA
government i.e., what the CPI(M) actually wants the UPA to do ? For the first time since
its inception three decades ago, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) held its congress
in Delhi at a time when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) supported by it from
outside is running a coalition government at the centre. The six day congress, from April 6-
11, 2005, reviewed the direction the party had taken since the last Hyderabad congress in
2002, the role of the Left and the party in the present political situation, and a roadmap for
the future apart from electing a new leadership. It began in the backdrop of mixed
experiences by the Left parties with the UPA and the position of confrontation on several
economic policies pursued by the Congress-led coalition government. In this congress, the
CPI(M) felt it had to play an independent role which means criticising and opposing such
steps of goverment which are against the people’s interests, or are a departure from the
CMP. The message was that the party is not supporting the government for continuing with
the same discredited policies (as it thinks) of the previous BJP-led NDA government. It
also argued that an independent role did not mean confining to, or dealing only with the
CMP but it would mean taking up the demands of the Left and democratic programme set
out at the last congress. I will focus only on such issues which were directly related to its
attitude and approach to the UPA government.

“Do not rely on the Left”, The Hindu, May 19, 2005.
The draft political resolution for the 18th congress stated, “the issues of land, wages,
democratic rights of working people have to be taken up and struggles conducted. The
issues of the basic classes have to be championed and fought for. Not taking up such issues
would mean undermining the independent role of the party and weakening the struggle of
the Left and democratic forces”184. In his inaugural address to the 18th congress of CPI(M),
Harkishen Singh Surjeet told the conclave “while we extend support to the UPA
government to meet the exigencies of the current situation, let us make it clear that there
will be no giving up on our basic agenda. We will act as sentinels of the people. We will
make independent assessments and decide our course of action”185. Jyoti Basu, at the end
of the first day’s session, said,” the people expect the UPA government to fulfill the
commitment that its policies will be for the benefit of the ‘aam aadmi’. This first of all
requires a realization that liberalization has benefited only 10% of the people”186. The call
for a third front was feeble in the congress as Surjeet indicated that the time was not
conducive for such an alternative. He said, “a third alternative is desirable but it cannot be
reduced to the concept of an electoral alliance”187. Explaining the rationale for supporting
the Congress-led formation at the Centre, Mr. Surjeet said that the CPI(M) recognized the
Congress as a secular party and the relevance of its role in determining the secular
character of the State at this juncture.

In the congress, Prakash Karat emphasized that supporting the coalition government did
not mean the CPI(M)would give up its independent role and that it would oppose any
policy measure that adversely affected national sovereignty, interests of the working
people and an independent foreign policy. While presenting the draft political resolution
of the 18th congress, he said, “this time there has been a wider acceptance of our party line
with regard to our approach to the UPA government and the interventions we have
made”188. The main thrust of the political resolution they made was that “the CPI(M) will

“People’s Democracy”, January 23,2005, Pg 11..
“CPM lectures Congress”, The Telegraph, April 7, 2005.
“CPM okay with stand on Delhi”, The Telegraph, April 8, 2005.
intensify its pressure on the UPA government to ensure it does not follow policies of
liberalization indiscriminately”189.

The CPI(M)’s 18th congress wanted the Left to be patient with the government and
expected the Congress-led coalition to implement the CMP to ensure its complete turn as
Jyoti Basu in his speech to the congress pointed out that in the present situation the Left
and the government depended on each other and both should have patience. He wanted the
government to last five years which in his view could only happen if the government
implements the CMP. He argued that since the Congress had a programme and the Left
had a programme so now the two were dependent on the CMP and the two must learn to
coexist because the CMP only held the key to their staying together. The 18th congress
made it clear that the party would raise questions in Parliament and outside if the
government proposed anti-people programmers and policies, but not to an extent that
would threaten its survival. It seems that the strategy was being delicately poised between
‘barking’ and not ‘biting’. Jyoti Basu said that “the CPM needs the Congress as much as
the Congress needs the CPM”190. He expressed that “we will behave in a way that the UPA
government can last a full term. In the new context, there can be no one way traffic. The
Congress is dependent on us as we are on them”191

The draft political resolution of the congress emphasized the need for the party to play an
independent role which, it says, entails that the party and the Left conduct political
campaigns to project the independent positions of the Left, and popular mobilizations and
struggles to defend the rights and livelihood of the people. It says that “given the present
situation the task is not only to carry forward the struggle against the communal forces but
also to intensify the struggle against the policies of liberalization and dictates of
international capital”192. It further says that the CPI(M) and the Left therefore must wage a
struggle on both fronts – against communalism and against the renewed push for
liberalization. The resolution viewed the struggle against communalism and the economic

“CPM to intensify pressure on govt”, Hindustan Times, April 9, 2005.
“Basu utters home truths, party listens”, Monobina Gupta, The Telegraph, April 10, 2005.
“People’s Democracy”, January 23, 2005, Pg 11.
policies as connected to an anti-imperialist task as both the Hindutva-forces and the
liberalizers are distinguished by their pro-imperialism.

On the issue of supporting the government, it argues that “given the class character of the
Congress and its commitment to pursue economic policies of liberalization, the party was
not for joining a government in which the coalition would be dominated by forces
committed to these policies”193. But this stand of the CPI(M) clearly contradicts its
previous stand taken at the 17th congress in Hyderabad, which says, “the Congress stands
for the same economic policies that it had initiated in1991. So there is no difference with
the BJP on the basic economic policies. Given its class character, the CPM cannot have an
alliance or (a) united front with the Congress”194.

Speaking on the UPA’s economic policies in an interview with Venkitesh Ramakrishnan,

the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said, “we have not merely expressed
reservations. We are unhappy about the direction of the economic policy. I think that this
direction (which the UPA has taken on economic and foreign fronts) is going to lead to
difficulties, including political difficulties, for the government”195.

“it is the UPA which has the responsibility of running the government. We are supporting
it for certain political reasons. So, let them run the government, but we cannot be party to
these policies. We will go to the people and mobilize and against such policies. Whenever
necessary we shall launch strong movements”196. These views of Mr. Prakash Karat show
even if to a little extent the attitude of his party.

At last, I think, one should notice a sea change in the relationship between the government
and the Left especially the CPI (M), because most of us think that the government is in
thrall to the Left which is partially true taking into account a kind of metamorphosis that
has taken place. There are many issues on which the government and the Left have

Ibid., Pg 10.
“CPM Special on Congress”, The Telegraph, January 8, 2005.
“Frontline”, June 17, 2005, Pg 6-7.
Ibid.,Pg 7.
clashed. Theses issues include relations with America, the nuclear deal, Iran, airports, FDI,
the budget, PSU's disinvestments, EPF interest rates, etc. going by the records one can see
that since January 1,2006, the CPM politburo and the Left parties have issued nearly 25
statements severely criticizing the government’s decisions. The simple conclusion seems to
be that the distance between the Left and the government has increasingly grown since
May, 2004, in some areas even new differences, often crucial ones, have emerged. If FDI,
disinvestment and relations with America fall into the first category, Iran, airports, the
budget and EPF interest rates are part of the second.

The surprising discovery is that on all these issues the Left may have its say but it’s the
government that has its way. So, it is clear that behind the babel of criticism, Dr
Manmohan Singh has silently but surely done what he wants. In the matter of foreign
affairs, while Jyoti Basu calls Bush a terrorist, Brinda Karat calls him a killer and Prakash
Karat wants him treated as a war criminal our Prime Minister broke with the protocol to
receive Bush at the airport when he came to India and called him an honoured guest
slapping on the face of these communists.

When one considers the substance of India’s relationship with America, one will find
sharper differences. The CPM objected to the June 2005 Indo-US defense deal. A month
later the PM concluded the ‘ global democracy initiative’. The CPM had strong reservation
about the July 2005 nuclear agreement, but just six weeks ago, the government finalized
the details. When on March 2, Sitaram Yechury threatened the government that if the
government succumbs to US pressure on the nuclear deal they will have to face the
consequences. But on the same day the UPA government called his bluff and signed the
deal. In November 2005, the CPM warned the government not to vote against Iran but the
government did precisely that, In February this year, it repeated the warning but some days
later the government repeated its vote. Consequently, Iran was referred to the Security
Council, an outcome the CPI (M) opposed all the way and wanted to avoid at all costs.

On domestic issues the divide is more glaring. In December, 2005, the EPF interest rate
was cut to 8.5%. The CPM opposed it by asserting that there is no question of accepting it
at any cost and this is totally unacceptable, which has to be reversed. But till now the cut
stands. On the issue of privatization and modernization of Mumbai and Delhi airports, the
CPM accused the government of breaching the Common Minimum Programme calling it a
‘scam’. But the government did exactly what it wanted. On the issue of FDI in retail, the
CPM politburo warned of serious deleterious effects on the economy and the life of the
people, but the government permitted FDI in single brand retail and is also talking of FDI
in general retail in coming times. The government is now proposing FDI in mining,
increased FDI in insurance, banking deregulation, pension reform, PSU disinvestment etc.
and the CPM is implacably opposed to these but I think it is not going to put the
government off. For example, Prakash Karat said in Kolkata on January 19 this year that
the sale of shares in public sector units to garner a few crores is a bad policy, bad
economics and bad politics which the CPM cannot accept. But the government in Delhi, in
the same week, planned to disinvest the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and National
Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC).

So as far as my analysis goes on, no matter what the subject, the CPM does the talking but
the government walks away with the decision. And now it seems to me that the
government has come to a conclusion that the CPM with other Left parties will never
withdraw support as that would mean giving an opportunity to the communal forces to
come to power and rule the nation. So the only Common Minimum Programme of the
CPM, as the Late Mr. Pramod Mahajan once remarked, is to keep BJP out of power.

Besides this, it is also enjoying the power and authority without any responsibility and
liability. The moves adopted by the Congress government suggest that the government
wants to pursue a two-track policy with the Left parties. First, it releases policy measures
in a flurry, much like an economic ambush, and then it attempts a trade-off on unconnected
p[policy issues so as to give a face saving option for the unreliable Left while buying
peace. As far as I think, the CPM is criticizing the UPA government just because, in its
perception the UPA government seems to be implementing the same kind of neo-liberal
reform programme adopted by the NDA ignoring the Common Minimum Programme. It
criticized the government for pushing ahead with measures of liberalization, be it in the
form of divesting equity in profit making public sector units, hiking foreign direct
investment caps in crucial sector including telecom and banking, pushing ahead with the
current form of restructuring of the electricity sector and above all diluting and shelving
some of the promised measures in the Common Minimum Programme.

I think the CPM seems to have assigned itself the fig mental, non practical and unfeasible
role of doing struggles against communalism, neo-liberal economic policies and
imperialism simultaneously. It is supporting the government to fight the communal forces
and to keep them out of power. It is criticizing the government for following neo-liberal
policies and for standing with US and Europe on some issues. But, in between, it is caught
up with its own ambivalences and contradictions in its approach and attitude towards the
government and itself, which are of varied nature and of great importance, and which
shows that the path it is following is absolutely incorrect in the present days. Ever since the
dismantling of the Soviet Union and the regime changes in the socialist bloc countries, the
CPI(M) has been trying to evolve policy and tactical approaches on the new emerging
world situation marked by globalization and neo-liberal economic policies, which took a
concrete shape at the 18th party congress with the release of the document ‘On Certain
Policy Matters’, which made it clear that “the struggle for an alternative socialist order has
to be based on revolutionary transformation of the existing order”197 and this requires “an
engagement of the revolutionary forces with existing world realities with the sole objective
of changing the co-relation of forces in favour of socialism”198. This document also argues
that the “process of revolutionary transformation has to be based on such an engagement
and not on the wishful thinking of escaping from the existing realities”199. It shows that the
CPI(M) has come to a point when it acknowledges that globalization cannot be wished

But in my view, this acknowledgement comes from the fact that the CPI(M) is
participating in elections in a ‘bourgeois setup’ as the party calls it, in which these things
cannot be ignored. The twin approach of supporting and criticizing the government led by

“A perspective on foreign capital”, Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, Frontline, May 6, 2005, Pg 17.
the Congress at the Centre, is only its tactic to build up and expand its political and
organizational base across the country, which, given the history of the communist
movement in India seems very difficult unless it changes its policies, attitude and
approach, which is also not easy because in that case it will become the Congress party.

Actually the CPM’s opposition and attitude towards the UPA government is full of
ambiguities and half-truths. One should ask a question what is right and what is left ? the
high decibel rhetoric of the CPM, the “self appointed protectors of middle class
interests”200 always contained a surfeit of canine references but its bark has not been turned
into bite yet. Seeking logic in the thinking of this party is “as daunting as finding a needle
in a haystack”201. The UPA alliance is an uncomfortable alliance that has worked for
almost two years “within an extremely uncooperative, desperate opposition and outside
supporter who believe in keeping up pressure”202. The CPM wants absolutely nothing to
change it wants to protect all existing beneficiaries of subsidies and all existing job holders
even if that means denying jobs to the young people who flood the market every year.
“This is not socialism, but the very quintessence of reactionary politics”203. “Power makes
a difference, and the difference is all the more historical if we are talking about Indian
communists and India”204.

Taking the captive soviets of Kerala and West Bengal out of the bracket one can easily
realize how communists have lost India, and how they have misread India and its struggle
of class as well as caste. Today the apparatchiks of A.K.G. Bhavan are issuing Fatwa’s
with the tenacity of a Muzzafarnagar mullah, as if the only way to make up for the fall of
the Soviet Union is to keep the UPA government on the Left course, that is, keep it away
from capitalists and imperialists. “The second most powerful party in the country at the
moment draws its power from the collective powerlessness of the ruling coalition. And

“The oil slick ahead”, Rohit Saran, India Today, May 16, 2005, Pg 39.
“Will BHEL Power the Way?”, Pooja Mehra, India Today, June 20, 2005, Pg 42.
“Economiss”, Paromita Shastri, Outlook, May 23, 2005, Pg 50.
“India Shining, Act II”, Prem Shankar Jha, Outlook, July 11, 2005, Pg 54.
“Junk Power”, S. Prasannarajan, India Today, July 18, 2005, Pg 18.
without power, history tells us, there is no communism. The Kremlin within Lutyen’s
Delhi grows because the market rate for museum worthy junk has not fallen in India”205.

After being in the wilderness for nearly a decade, now the Left is back at the centre space
of the Indian political and economic stage. Although bereft of its original steam the
unmistakable Leftist imprint has once again begun to show itself in most of its favoured
haunts: economics, education and culture. The Leftists are clearly reveling in the limelight.
In May 2004, when they announced support for the Congress-led coalition, they had stated
they would monitor the government for a year. Now as the elections in Kerala and West
Bengal, its two main strongholds are going on, the UPA-Left honeymoon doesn’t seem to
be over. As the prop that keeps the minority government in office, it is the nearest the Left
has come to exercising power at the Centre. The CPM as an outside supporter has enough
experience of backseat driving which it has learnt from the previous two short lived United
Front experiments of the 90s. This now comes handy as the Left intimidated the
government on disinvestment and privatization, held out threats over petroleum price
hikes, harangued it over plans to privatize airports and chided it for its attempts to sell
shares of BHEL. The reds are clearly enjoying the role of backseat drivers . It’s a role that
suits them well, as in the event of an accident the responsibility would not be theirs.


A. Newspapers -
1. The Hindustan Times, New Delhi.
2. The Hindu, New Delhi.
3. The Telegraph, Kolkata.
4. The Economic Times, New Delhi.
5. The Indian Express, New Delhi.
6. The Statesman, New Delhi.
7. The Tribune, Chandigarh.

B. Magazines –
1. People’s Democracy
2. Frontline
3. Outlook
4. The Week
5. India Today

C. Some of the cartoons which express the Media’s comprehension of the CPM-UPA
relationship and the CPM’s attitude towards the UPA government.