Press Communiqué

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) met on October 10 and 11, 1999. It has adopted the following statement:

The elections to the 13th Lok Sabha have resulted in a majority for the BJP-alliance enabling it to form a government. The CPI(M) and the Left, democratic and secular forces had sought to defeat the BJP-led alliance. Contrary to this, the BJP-led alliance could win around 300 seats. It is noteworthy that the BJP has not been able to increase its own tally beyond 182 seats which is what it got in the 1998 elections. The overall increase of seats in the alliance is due to the non-BJP partners who have got around 120 seats.

Reasons For BJP Win

The Central Committee analysed the basis for these results. Among the major reasons which helped the BJP and its allies were the failure to form an alternative government when the Vajpayee government collapsed in April 1999. The BJP was able to cash in on this failure by projecting that it is the only party/alliance, which can provide a viable government at the Centre.

Secondly, a major and unanticipated event, the Kargil conflict, took place. For two months the attention of the entire country was focussed on the fight to evict the Pakistani intruders. The entire 13-month record of the Vajpayee government viz. its communal character, the harmful economic policies and attacks on democracy got sidetracked. The whole country rallied to support the armed forces. The impact of the Kargil issue was not uniform in the country but it certainly gave the BJP an edge in certain sections of the people by exploiting the successful eviction of the Kargil intruders to enhance the image of the Prime Minister. In such a situation, an effective exposure of the Vajpayee government’s 13-month record and subsequent four-month caretaker period could not be mounted among the people.

Thirdly, the BJP alliance forged in 1998 was widened with the inclusion of major regional parties like the TDP in Andhra Pradesh and the DMK in Tamilnadu. The split in the Janata Dal and the addition of a faction to the BJP alliance in Bihar helped the BJP to gain additional support. The wide-ranging alliance forged by the BJP with major regional parties blunted to some extent the exposure of its communal character and its anti-secular policies.

A major weaknesses in the national political situation for the Left and democratic forces was the absence of a viable third force at the national level during the election. The falling apart of the old United Front and the differences which arose on the question of being equidistant to the BJP and the Congress, precluded any possibility of a national alliance before the election. This handicapped the Party and the Left in various ways.

The Congress Party, which is the major opposition party, failed to put up an effective fight at the national level and in many states. The Congress in its manifesto advocated the same economic policies of liberalisation since 1991. The only projection the Congress made was that it would provide a stable government on its own through single party rule. Such a claim had no basis in reality and was not taken seriously by the people. For large sections of the people the Congress remains identified with its past discredited record. In the absence of any policy issues or any meaningful socio-economic platform to appeal to the people, the Congress found itself placed in a situation where the campaign became one, as posed by the BJP, of Atal Behari Vajpayee v/s Sonia Gandhi. With its weakened organisational and ideological state, the Congress was not in a position to counter the powerful combine of the BJP. As a result, the Congress suffered its worst result since 1952.

BJP Restricted

The BJP had the support of big business and its resources for the campaign. Imperialism took keen interest in the election. The big business owned media and the Prasar Bharati were mobilised to support the BJP in a big way. Opinion polls and exit polls were conducted to influence public opinion by projecting a big BJP victory. The four months of caretaker rule was fully utilised by the BJP to misuse the powers of government. Yet, despite all these tactics and the big money at its command, the notable fact is that the BJP could not increase its own number of seats from the 1998 figure.

In this connection, it is significant that the BJP has suffered a decisive defeat in Uttar Pradesh, where it got only 29 seats compared to the 57 it held. UP is a state which is a stronghold of the BJP and which has been contributing the largest number of MPs for the BJP in the previous three parliament elections. On the other hand, the SP got 26 seats and the BSP 14 seats.

Left Performance

The Central Committee made a preliminary analysis of the performance of the CPI(M) and the Left forces. It noted that the Party had retained the same number of seats as in 1998, which is 32. The polling percentage of the Party has also slightly improved. The Party has retained both seats in Tripura with higher margins. In Kerala, the CPI(M) has gone up from 6 to 8 and the LDF has maintained its strength of 9 seats as against 11 of the UDF. A new seat, has been won in Tamilnadu, which is an important political centre. In West Bengal, the CPI(M) has won 21 seats which is a reduction of 3 from the last election. The Left Front has won 29 seats, which is a loss of 4 seats from its earlier tally.

The overall strength of the Left parties is now 42, which is a reduction of 6. Unfortunately, the CPI lost 5 seats from its previous tally. However, it is significant that in the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, the Left has been able to withstand by and large the BJP offensive, while at the same time fighting the Congress. The Central Committee decided to undertake a more full-fledged review of the election results and the Left’s performance after the state committees conduct their election reviews. It will be necessary to examine what are the weaknesses and trends, which affected the Left’s performance.

Prospects Under BJP-led government

The BJP-led government assuming office is based on a heterogeneous alliance. Unlike the BJP, its major supporters the TDP and its ally the DMK do not share the Hindutva ideology, even though they collaborated with the BJP. They have their own regional identities and aspirations. The disparate and conflicting aims of the alliance partners will bring to the fore contradictions.

Despite what is professed by the National Democratic Alliance and stated by the Prime Minister, the RSS and its organisations are determined to push forward the Hindutva agenda. They will make covert and systematic efforts to advance their aims.

The economic situation is worsening and already the Prime Minister has called for hard decisions to be taken. It is evident that the BJP with its newfound love for foreign capital and pushing ahead with liberalisation will launch a new round of attacks on the people’s livelihood. The savage hike in the diesel prices is just the beginning. This price increase is now fuelling inflation by increased transport and fare rates. There is also a proposal to hike prices in the PDS.

Immediate Tasks

In such a situation, the Central Committee decided that it will resolutely oppose any attempt to push through the Hindutva agenda and the penetration of the State apparatus by the communal forces. The Party is committed to defend democratic rights and oppose any anti-democratic moves contemplated by the new government. The Central Committee has called upon the Party to oppose any fresh onslaughts on the people through harmful economic policies and ceaselessly fight against price rise, unemployment and other mass issues. The Party will support the mass organisations that take up such issues and strive for united struggles to defend the rights of the people.

The Central Committee reiterated the need to reforge the unity of the Left, democratic and secular forces so as to present an effective third alternative. The election results have debunked he talk of the emergence of a two-party system. The secular non-Congress parties which fought the BJP have a substantial number of seats in parliament. Developing united struggles and movements will facilitate a regrouping of these forces.

The Central Committee decided to meet in the 3rd week of November after the state committees conduct their reviews, to make a full-fledged review of the elections. This will be utilised to examine the weaknesses in the Party’s ideological-political-organisational work and to set out concrete steps for strengthening the Party’s activities and influence among the people.