India and its Left!

The showdown ulitmately yeilded a coalition government that may be standing on even more tenuous grounds than before! But yes, the Leftists are out of the government now. What are the gains? Will the nuclear deal come through in time before Prosident Bush’s term expires? Well that needs to be seen and any cynicism on this front would not be completely out of line. Nevertheless, it remains clear that anything that augments energy capabilities of India should be welcomed.

What becomes of the Left in India? It certainly is not dead. Having continuously ruled a couple of states for quite some time now, they are anything but dead. However, the confidence vote is definitely a setback to its efficacy. The economies of the states that it rules are also not in great shape. West Bengal lost its industrial leadership long back and never really recovered since. Kerala has an amazing record of human development but probably survives on remittances more than any local economy. So there is not much to show in terms of economic success for the Left. As the EPW rightly (and finally!) argued, if the Left wants to have any chance of dominating the central politics it has to have a backing of a successful model. Unfortunately, this is not the case; neither in India nor anywhere else in the world.

Notwithstanding this, one successful contribution of the Left has been in the area of public debate on important economic and social aspects of the Indian economy. And this is surely an important one. If such debates have prolonged the much needed economic reforms, they also have helped avoid unnecessary pitfalls. For example, the left winged economists in India argued against allowing capital mobility long before the mainstream economists started seeing sense in such a policy. The Left intelligentsia has long supported the peoples struggle against poorly executed mega projects like the Narmada Dam.

But apart from such successes, it is indeed true that the Left has much less to offer in terms of economic success. And so long as that remains, it would be difficult for them to contribute meaningfully to politics and governance in India.

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