Welcome to The Election Fix. Every Sunday, Monday and Thursday, we will bring you all the news, analysis and opinion worth paying attention to, until the votes are counted. Today, we look at whether the Left is still relevant in Indian politics, what the Congress’ campaign slogan is and LK Advani’s latest non-appearance.
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The Big Story: Hammer & sick
Look away from the Bharatiya Janata Party versus Congress battles for a moment and there are still a number of fascinating questions that arise from India’s upcoming general elections. Who will capture the political imagination of Tamil Nadu? Will film star Pawan Kalyan make a dent in Andhra Pradesh? Does Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar still have a strong base?
We’ll try and get to these questions and others in the Election Fix. Today, we look at another one: what will happen to the Left?
Although India’s various communist parties, associations and trade unions still have a presence across the country, as a political force they have for the most part been confined to three states: Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. Even in these three, the party has experienced major setbacks.
In 2018, after nearly three decades of communist rule, Tripura got a Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister. In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress and a recently assertive BJP have combined to turn the Left Front, a coalition of communist parties, into what seems like a bit player in a state it once ruled for three decades.
It is only in Kerala that the Left Front is actually in power. But here too, there are fears that the anti-incumbency factor could work against it. Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from a second seat in Kerala, in addition to his current constituency of Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi, complicates this further.
Gandhi will be contesting from Wayanad, where he will be going up against the Left. The constituency sits on the corner of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and the Congress hopes that its leader’s decision to contest from there will boost its chances across these three states.
But that means cutting further into the Left’s base in Kerala. In an election that is supposedly built around the idea of Opposition parties working together to “save democracy” by defeating the BJP, this decision presents a different picture: one where the Congress is pragmatically building its own base, which we discussed on the Election Fix a few weeks ago.
So where does that leave the Left Front? Not in a great place. Opinion polls in West Bengal suggest the communist parties will be left with no seats at all.
Shoaib Daniyal, reporting from West Bengal, offers this snippet to give you a sense of what is happening to the Left:
“Habibpur is an adivasi-reserved Assembly seat in the Malda district of West Bengal. Incredibly, the communists have held this seat since 1962 – with only one gap from 1967-’69, when it lost to the Congress. For the past three terms, the seat has been held by veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Khagen Murmu.
But in March, Murmu jumped ship to join the BJP. The prize? He was made the Hindutva party’s Lok Sabha candidate for Malda North. The CPI(M) itself can scarcely be found in the villages of Habibpur anymore, as saffron blots out red. The communists once considered Bengal their fort. Now they cannot even hold on to their pocket boroughs.”
In Kerala too polls are weighed against the Left, so Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad will no doubt have an impact.
The big two Left Front parties, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), put out their manifestos this week, with promises that included Rs 9,000 per month in pensions, more guaranteed employment and data privacy.
But the Left’s ability to influence policy will depend, to some extent on its political fortunes. And those, at the moment, do not look promising.
Is the Left in India still relevant? Send in your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Elections 2019 on Scroll.in
- Ground report: Akash Bisht tried to find out whether Rahul Gandhi’s NYAY minimum income promise (which we looked at closely on Sunday) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden anti-satellite missile test are being talked about in Western Uttar Pradesh.
- Ground report: Shoaib Daniyal reports from Malda, West Bengal, where despite support for the BJP, the weakness of the party’s local unit still holds it back.
- Ground report: Sruthisagar Yamunan went to Andhra Pradesh to get a sense of what the rise of Pawan Kalyan, a film star-politician, means for the ruling Telugu Desam Party.
- Manifesto check: How has the Modi government performed on its healthcare promises? Nayantara Narayanan takes a look.
- Manifesto check: Has the Modi government come good on its promises to farmers? Mridula Chari has some answers.
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Policy & reportage
- Revati Laul, writing on IndiaSpend.com, begans a six-part series looking at the Hindu voter in Uttar Pradesh, with the first piece looking at hate politics and urban aspirations.
- What does Tamil Nadu politics without former chief ministers J Jayalalithaa and K Karunanidhi look like? G Seetharaman takes a look in the Economic Times.
- Amit Basole and Arjun Jayadev in the India Forum have some suggestions for how to deal with urban unemployment.
- Between Chandrababu Naidu, Jagan Reddy and Pawan Kalyan, Andhra Pradesh – voting properly for the first time after bifurcation – has a cracker of an election, reports Sreenivas Janyala in the Indian Express.
- Ullekh NP for Open travels through West Bengal to get a sense of what the field looks like for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and what she’s up against.
- The Congress finally has a counter to the BJP’s “Modi hai to mumkin hai” (with Modi it’s possible) slogan: Nibhayengey. (We’ll fulfill promises).
- Are the makers of the Modi biopic connected to the BJP? They insist they are not, even though the same people were involved in many other Modi projects.
- The Nishad party, which, as part of the Mahagathbandhan, defeated the BJP in the Gorakhpur bye-poll in Uttar Pradesh last year, has pulled out of the grand alliance.
- Rahul Gandhi’s new adviser is apparently a Jawaharlal Nehru University alum who once waved a black flag at former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- Political leaders turned out in force for BJP President Amit Shah’s nomination for the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat. Except, that is, for LK Advani who had won the seat six times.
Opinions & analysis
- Amitav Ghosh, TM Krishna and Nityanand Jayaraman in the Hindu say India needs a “manifesto for the protection of the commons and open lands, and for the re-creation of economies that derive value out of healing wounded landscape”.
- IndiaSpend finds that the BJP had the same number of dynasts among elected parliamentarians over the past two decades as the Congress.
- Aditya Menon argues in the Quint that the Congress decision to take on the Left in Wayanad is actually a smart tactic.
- Jayanta Ghoshal argued in the Indian Express that West Bengal is slowly accepting Hindu nationalism and the BJP. In a rebuttal, Sayandeb Chowdhury, Anirban Biswas insists that it is incorrect to say the BJP is taking the place of the Left.
- “Modi isn’t even building a campaign on his own successes on national security. He is, instead, building further insecurities,” writes Shekhar Gupta in the Print. “It is like, read my lips, after me, the deluge of Jaish, Lashkar and ISI terror.”
Did we miss any reports or op-eds that you thought were relevant? Send thoughts, suggestions and WhatsApp forwards to email@example.com.