The verdict of the 17th Lok Sabha elections has given the BJP-led NDA a larger number of seats and a larger vote share than it had won in 2014. This constitutes a decisive mandate in their favour. The rightwing offensive unleashed by the BJP during the last five years has consolidated with this mandate.
The BJP could successfully shift, post Pulwama and Balakot, the popular narrative away from the multitude of livelihood issues that the last five years of the NDA government had imposed. The new narrative of communal nationalist jingoism was aided by the build-up of the Modi persona through a combination of factors. Sections of the media partnered such a projection. The elections saw the unprecedented use of money power. Huge amounts were transferred to the BJP through electoral bonds. The role of the Election Commission was a contributory factor.
Most opposition parties, barring those from Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and a few other states, have witnessed a big loss in these elections.
The opposition parties, the Congress in particular, failed to put in place the unity of secular opposition parties that was being projected in the run-up to the elections. A campaign to safeguard secularism as against the communal offensive was not conducted. Soft Hindutva is not the answer for hardcore Hindutva. The ideological battle between Hindutva and secularism was not forcefully conducted.
Severe Reverses for the CPI(M) & the Left
The CPI(M) and the Left have suffered a severe setback, particularly in their strongholds of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura.
Both in West Bengal and Tripura, the elections were held in an atmosphere of intense terror and violence. Five CPI(M) activists in West Bengal and one in Tripura lost their lives in such violence. The polls were largely rigged in Tripura West constituency, Diamond Harbour constituency in West Bengal and vitiated in many others. The Election Commission could not implement its assurance to conduct “free and fair polls”.
The Central Committee discussed the preliminary review conducted by these three state committees. A detailed booth-wise review is ongoing, on the basis of which the final experiences will be evaluated.
In these elections, the CPI(M) had called for the defeat of the BJP and its allies, increase the strength of the Left in Parliament and for the establishment of an alternative secular government at the Centre. This mandate has negated these objectives.
The voters in Kerala felt that the Congress will be in a better position for the formation of an alternative secular government which resulted in sections of secular-minded people and minorities voting for them. The correct stand of the LDF government which was bound to implement the Supreme Court judgment on Sabarimala was utilized by the BJP and UDF to create misgivings amongst a section of believers. The Party will make all efforts to bring back these sections into our fold.
In West Bengal, elections were held in a highly polarized atmosphere. The media played a big role in building a binary narrative that aided such polarization between the TMC and the BJP. The communally charged campaign further polarized the voters. There was a high anti-incumbency against the TMC. The CPI(M) and the Left Front were not seen as the alternative and this led to a shift in a section of our traditional votes. The Congress’s refusal to accept the Left’s proposal for maximizing the pooling of anti-BJP, anti-TMC votes bolstered this binary narrative.
In Tripura, one of the two seats was by and large rigged. In the reserved ST seat won by the BJP, the Congress came second.
In both these states as well, the Party committees are evaluating earnestly the erosion in our traditional support base and will draw up urgent steps to be undertaken to bring these sections back into our fold.
Outside of these strongholds, the CPI(M) won both the seats it contested as part of the DMK led electoral alliance in Tamilnadu. In all other states, the CPI(M) contested independently. In Dindori constituency in Maharashtra, the CPI(M) polled, among the seats it contested, the highest vote of 1,09,570.
In the elections to the state assembly of Odisha, the CPI(M) retained its sitting MLA in Bonai with a vote that was over 20,000 (34.67 per cent) higher than last time.
The Central Committee noted that the independent strength of the Party and its political intervention capacities continue to be weakened. The Central Committee discussed various factors that have contributed to the deepening of such a trend and worked out immediate organizational and political steps that would be undertaken by the Party to arrest and reverse this decline.
The Central Committee concluded that the country and the people must brace themselves for the imminent challenges that are bound to be mounted by this decisive BJP victory. The Central Committee noted four such challenges.
a) The BJP has won this decisive victory on the basis of unprecedented money power and full support of the international and domestic corporates. The trajectory of anti-people economic reforms favouring the big business and the rich are bound to intensify by imposing greater miseries on the vast majority of the people. The Party will take the lead in rallying the maximum sections of the people in struggles against such economic assaults.
b) The consolidation of the Hindutva communal polarization will lead to greater attacks on the rights of the religious and linguistic minorities, worsening their security concerns and livelihood. The safeguarding and strengthening of secularism, as enshrined in our Constitution, will be taken up by the Party drawing in the broadest sections in these struggles.
c) The penetration of the RSS in all Constitutional authorities that happened during the last five years is bound to further intensify. This will lead to undermining such Constitutional authorities in order to facilitate the transformation of the Constitutional Republic into the ideological project of the RSS, “Hindutva Rashtra”. The defence and strengthening of all Constitutional authorities will be championed by the CPI(M) along with all other forces willing to join these struggles.
d) The focus of the BJP’s victory was based on the need to establish a `security’ state in India, the infringement upon the rights of individuals specifically the right to dissent will sharpen. Already ominous indications are evident. The assaults by private armies under one pretext or the other against Dalits and religious minorities will intensify. The rights of working people and religious, linguistic minorities will come under attack leading up to witch-hunting. The CPI(M) will take the lead in mobilizing the broadest segment of our people who cherish democratic rights and civil liberties to meet these challenges squarely.
The Central Committee adopted a number of measures and tasks in order to meet the serious situation due to this setback for the Party.
Specific measures have been decided upon to deepen links with the people and to strengthen the activities of various fronts.
Specific attention will be made to integrate the struggles over the livelihood issues with the struggles against social oppression – SCs, STs, minorities and women.
The Party will conduct a review of the implementation of important decisions regarding the Party organization and its functioning adopted by the Party Plenum in Kolkata in 2015. On the basis of this review, which will be completed by the states by the end of August, the future course for strengthening the Party and galvanizing our cadres will be undertaken.
The experience of these elections shows the need for far reaching electoral reforms with the urgent need to reform the Election Commission. The CPI(M) will mobilise all willing sections of the political spectrum to ensure that the Election Commissioners will be appointed by a collegium led by the President of India rather than by the government of the day.
On the various complaints regarding the neutrality of the EVMs and the doubts over the possible manipulation of these machines, the CPI(M) will conduct a study of such reports and, in consultation with other political parties, will decide on the future course of action.
The Central Committee condemned the threatening calls made to secular intellectual Dr. Ram Puniyani post-elections.
The Central Committee expressed grief over the suicide of a young ST post-graduate medical student, Dr. Payal Tadvi. She was driven to commit suicide as a result of caste harassment. The state government of Maharashtra must take firm action against the culprits and those generating such hate campaigns.