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Karat, the master of cool

Lesson 1: People had decided on a change and we could not change their mind.

Lesson 2: We mobilised people but we did not bother to see that others were mobilising people too.

Lesson 3: The Left Front has got the support of 1 crore and 96 lakh people, which is over 41 per cent of the votes polled. Those writing the Left’s epitaph will be proved wrong.

Lesson 4: Our votes went up by 11 lakh and their votes went up by 34 lakh.

Lesson 5: Electoral politics is just a part of our agenda. There are many issues of ideology, people’s rights and related agitations and struggles that we must keep up.

New Delhi, May 16: Welcome to the CPM school of post-election therapy that specialises in irrefutable logic, pride-pumping math and the art of smug introspection.

Unfazed in his party’s darkest hour, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat today turned to warn those writing an epitaph for the Left and said time would show they were mistaken.

In his first interaction with the media after the election results, Karat also batted off the Bengal drubbing as mere yearning for change without explaining why the voters craved for change. (See Lesson 1)

However, in response to another question, he did admit that while the Left felt buoyed by its mobilisation in the run-up to the polls “we did not bother to see that other people were mobilising people too”.

Karat did not appear terribly bothered that his party had done so poorly. “Electoral politics is just a part of our agenda,” he said and listed other preoccupations such as ideology, people’s rights and struggles.

The CPM boss was at ease on the AKG Bhawan dais, betraying no sense that he was rattled. “Let the states that went to the polls send their review reports and then the politburo and central committee will discuss what happened and what we need to do to revive ourselves.”

He brushed aside reports that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had expressed a wish to quit the politburo and the central committee. “Nobody has resigned or offered to resign…. You should not have any confusion,” he asserted. He said Bhattacharjee could not reach Delhi for the politburo meeting today because of post-poll violence in Bengal.

Karat crunched numbers to sound gung-ho about the Left’s revival, saying it still enjoyed the support of the masses and couldn’t be written off.

He acknowledged mistakes but with smugness. Reminded that the party had confidently claimed a revival, Karat said with a smile: “We saw our own revival and based on that made our assessment but failed to see the consolidation on the other side. We’ll examine it.”

Karat side-stepped most questions on what had gone wrong for the party in Bengal, saying a review would be carried out by the state unit and placed before the central committee.

“The central committee will finalise the election review and the steps to be taken to strengthen the party and the movement.”

A three-day meeting of the politburo and the central committee will be held in Hyderabad from June 10 to 12.

The statement released after the politburo meeting acknowledged mistakes. “There were shortcomings in the political, governmental and organisational spheres,” the statement said.

Sources said the politburo, dominated by Karat loyalists, had resolutely refused to take any responsibility for the Bengal defeat, laying the blame at the door of the state unit and the government.

Serious concern was expressed at the politburo over the defeat in traditional strongholds like Bankura and Burdwan in Bengal and Kannur in Kerala. The Bengal party also faced criticism for claiming that it would win at least 149 seats. Several politburo members felt that such claims exposed the party’s total disconnect with the masses.

The politburo felt that the state party should refrain from adopting the role of an aggressive Opposition for at least a year. “Aggression could alienate the masses further,” sources said. The politburo decided that the party should take up issues targeting the Centre such as the oil price hike.

Grudging pat for VS

On Kerala, the politburo felt that V.S. Achuthanandan should be made the leader of the Opposition. The central leadership, which had evicted VS from the politburo, grudgingly acknowledged his role in checking anti-incumbency and almost returning to power. The Left fell three seats short of majority in Kerala.

“VS’s role was very important. Other issues also played a role,” Karat said, asked how much credit the party would give to VS for the near-win in Kerala. The party boss stoutly denied that VS was initially not given a ticket and that it could have affected the poll performance.

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