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Jotting Plus: Death of Ideology

The Left Front and the Congress have actually stitched together an informal “alliance” to combat the TMC in the assembly elections starting in April in West Bengal.

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On 1 January 1998, Mamata Banerjee raised the banner of revolt against the Congress and formed a regional party called Trinamool Congress. One of Banerjee’s complaints was that the Congress had become the B team of the Marxists in West Bengal. The Left Front and the Congress have actually stitched together an informal “alliance” to combat the TMC in the assembly elections starting in April in West Bengal. Far away in Kerala, the Congress will remain the mortal enemy of the Marxists where too assembly elections are due along with West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Assam.

But what becomes unmistakably clear as parties gear up for the assembly elections is the death of ideology: political as well as economic. Since elections are about winning power, ideology, past hostilities and issues take a back seat. Look at West Bengal. Between 1977 and 2011, the Congress and the Left were “mortal” enemies with 55,000 political murders in the red era. And yet, the same Congress and Left have now joined hands to challenge the supremacy of Banerjee. For her part, Banerjee has been an integral part of both the NDA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the UPA under Sonia Gandhi.

A similar script is unfolding in Tamil Nadu. Like Banerjee in West Bengal, J. Jayalalithaa looks invincible in the southern state. Many analysts claim that her incarceration for a few weeks over corruption charges has actually led to increased popularity (remember Lalu Prasad Yadav and Bihar assembly elections?). Sensing this, the DMK led by M. Karunanidhi has decided to restore the alliance with the Congress. Just a few years ago, humiliated by the jailing of Kanimozhi, the daughter of Karunanidhi, in the 2G scam, a bitter DMK had walked out of the UPA alliance. Of course, don’t forget that the DMK has also been alliance partners with the NDA in the Vajpayee era.

Things are not very different in Assam. The BJP, it seems, is fielding candidates who have a violent past as members of the insurgent outfit ULFA. It has again formed an alliance with the regional party AGP. And there is already an informal alliance with many Bodo outfits. The Congress seems to be facing strong anti-incumbency current at the moment. To stop the rise of BJP, it seems Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is already making efforts to get Congress to form an alliance with AUDF, a regional party in Assam that represents Muslim interests.

For almost two decades, he and Lalu Yadav were bitter rivals who publicly abused each other. And yet the duo formed an alliance and scripted a famous election victory in November 2015.

Naive pundits in India still bleat about the importance of ideology in politics. But as this round of assembly elections shows, power is what really matters.