Once prosperous, left struggling for survival | Chandigarh News
The Communist Party of India (CPI) had won two seats in alliance with Congress in the 2002 assembly polls, when Nathu Ram and Gurjant Singh Kuttiwal won the Malout and Pakka Kalan (now Bathinda Rural) segments respectively. Its candidate Bhan Singh Bhaura had won the parliamentary constituency of Bathinda in the 1999 elections, still in alliance with Congress. All three – parliamentary Bathinda in 1999 and Malout, Pakka Kalan – were then SC reserved seats.
Later, left-wing parties got a duck in four parliamentary polls and three consecutive polls.
As for the CPI (Marxist), its best performance was in 1999, when Ajit Singh won 1.90 lakh of the vote (26.87%) from the parliamentary constituency of Sangrur, also in alliance with the Congress. His last assembly victory was in 1992, when Tarsem Jodhan garnered 1,906 votes from the Qila Raipur seat, and the Akali Dal had boycotted the election.
The decline of leftist ideology mainly began in the era of terrorism in the 1980s, when there were many leftists in colleges and universities – presumed to be breeding grounds for leftist movement leaders. Many were killed or physically injured. After that, the leftist movement suffered a setback and failed to attract talented younger generations and the idea of socialism began to decline to be visible on campuses. Another big reason for the downfall was the liberalization policies of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and his finance minister, Dr. in 1964) were like a final nail in the coffin, says Bakhtaur Singh Dhillon, who has studied left-wing politics since the 1970s.
In the 2019 parliamentary polls, CPI’s vote share was only 0.31% and CPI(M)’s was 0.08%. The CPI won only 34,074 votes (0.2%) of the total vote in the 2017 assembly polls. In the 2014 legislative elections, the left won only 0.17% of the vote. Previously, in the 2012 assembly polls, the CPI had obtained 0.82% of the vote and the CPI(M) had obtained 0.16%. In the 2009 general elections, the CPI(M) obtained 0.33% of the vote, the CPI 0.14% and the CPI(ML) Liberation 0.14%. In the polls of the 2007 assembly, the left-wing parties are doing very badly again. In the 2002 legislative elections, the CPI won two seats (2.15% of the vote).
Their best performance was in the 1977 assembly polls, after the emergency was lifted, when the CPI(M) won 8 seats and the CPI 7. In the 1980 assembly elections, the CPI won 9 and the CPI(M) 5 seats. However, in the 1985 polls, after Operation Bluestar and the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, the tally was reduced to 1 seat.
In 1992, the left revived to some extent, with the SAD boycotting the elections and winning 5 seats (the CPI getting 4 and the CPI-M 1).
“The slide began for the forces of the left, which until the sixties made waves, because they did not react to emerging situations (in the aftermath of the 1962 China war) on the socio-economic front. The policies of the capitalism and communalism, apart from the emergence of regional parties, have proved disastrous for the leftist movement in India and Punjab,” says Comrade Hardev Arshi, Member of the CPI National Council.
“The left-wing movement is considered one of the oldest in Punjab but has failed to hold ground in the public domain and on the political battlefield,” admits CPI Secretary of State Bant Singh Brar and CPI(M) Secretary of State Sukhwinder Singh Sekhon. Many times the left party candidates even did worse than “None of the above” (NOTA), they said.
Harkishen Singh Surjeet, who was synonymous with India’s left-wing movement and remained a member of the CPI(M) Politburo until his death in 2008, rose to prominence aged 16 after hoisting a tricolor in front of the district courts of Hoshiarpur in 1932. At Independence he was appointed secretary of the Punjab unit of the CPI. When the party split in 1964, Surjit went with CPI(M) and was the first Punjabi to be elected National General Secretary in 1992. He remained in office until 2005. He is credited with forming the third forehead.
Apart from CPI, CPI(M), other parties like Revolutionary Marxist Party of India (RMPI), Liberation CPI (Marxist-Leninist) and MCPI have continued to participate in elections in the past. “Left parties failed to present the alternative socio-economic and political vision and continued to contest elections for a number of seats. It would have been better if they focused more on building mass movements on issues of public concern,” says former University professor Jawaharlal Nehru.
“The left opposed the liberalized economic policies launched in the 1990s and failed in the alternative policies that might have been acceptable to many,” says Sukhdarshan Natt, a member of the CPI (ML) central liberation committee in Mansa.
Bhan Singh Bhaura of the CPI won parliamentary elections for the parliamentary seat of Bathinda in 1971 and 1999, while Babu Singh won the assembly constituency of Rampura Phool in 1962, 1969, 1977 and 1980. Bhaura had also won two elections in the assembly in 1962 from Dhuri and in 1967 from Bhadaur. .
The CPI’s most prominent leader, Satyapal Dang, had won four elections to the Amritsar Assembly.