Left Turning Irrelevant In Andhra Pradesh
For the first time since Independence, the Left parties are seen as irrelevant in the politics of Andhra Pradesh. The Left parties are losing their grip drastically on have been political scene of the state. Andhra Pradesh was once considered their bastion in the country. Electorally too, it was their stronghold after West Bengal, Kerala and Triupura. Here, for the first time, Communist dreamed of establishing the elected government in the country way back in 1952. Even they announced their cabinet well before polling date.
At the same time, they also attempted to establish a Communist regime in Telangana region through ‘armed struggle’ immediately after Independence. However, the history makes them to depend on one or other major party in every election to get couple of seats in the Assembly.
If the dwindling Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and falling percentage of votes with each passing election are any indication, then two major Left parties in the state—CPI and CPM—are fast losing their ground. The wave of support in Left parties’ favour seems to be eroding.
In 1977, for the first time CPM had forged alliance with Janata Party, after split in CPI in 1964. Then CPI contested on its own. For the first time, both the left parties had contested together in 1983 and since then both CPI and CPM were together. They contested together or in alliance with other parties.
Afterwards, for the first time in this election, they are going separately. In Telangana region, CPI is having alliance with Congress. Congress first announced 11 Assembly seats for CPI, which shrunk to 7 by the time of announcing the list of candidates. Even in these seven constituencies official Congress candidates are in the fray in two places. In two constituencies, Congress rebel candidates are contesting with Congress symbol. Pradesh Congress President Ponnala Lakshmaiah says B Forms were given to them on ‘temporary’ basis.
The CPM is in alliance with YSR Congress Party. This alliance is limited to Khammam district, from where it is now contesting in three Assembly seats. In other districts, CPM is contesting on its own. In Seemandhra region, CPM is exploring possibility of seat sharing with YSR Congress Party on one side and with the Jai Samaikyandhra Party on other side, keeping pending on the issue of alliance with CPI.
In the first general elections in 1952, an undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) won 41 of the 63 seats and 16.46 per cent of votes in Andhra region and 32 of the 45 seats and 26.62 per cent of votes in Telangana region, (under the PDF banner). In Telangana, renowned Communist leader, who played an active role in ‘armed struggle’ Ravi Narayana Reddy won from Nalgonda Lok Sabha seat scoring more majority than the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who contested from Uttar Pradesh.
Many Communist veterans admit that the downfall of the Left parties had its roots in vertical division of the party in 1964. In the present context, the two left parties have been fast losing ground since1983, with the entry of the Telugu Desam Party onto the State’s political horizon.
In fact, Andhra Pradesh politics took a dramatic turn in 1982 with the inception of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) by N T Rama Rao. Since then, the graph of the Left parties has been dwindling, with a few ups and downs.
In 1983 CPM contested in 28 Assembly seats on its own but failed to clinch neither a decent number of votes nor seats on the expected lines. CPI fought in 48 Assembly seats and won just four, two less than its earlier tally.
Realising the strength of the NTR, both the Left parties joined hands with TDP by 1985 mid-term election and both the parties benefited out of the alliance. Since then, the two Left parties have been changing alliances very often and are continuing to pay a price for it.
The erosion of support base for both the parties has been attributed to several factors, including the hijacking of their main pro- poor agenda by parties like Congress and TDP. NTR introduced many welfare schemes like one-rupee-a-kg rice scheme and the Congress party too followed suit.
Both the Left parties have been in existence only because of alliances, as their individual strength is not sufficient to get large numbers. In the last three general elections, the Left parties failed to win considerable number of seats in both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, except in 2009, thanks to its alliance with Congress. In 2004, both CPI and CPM won one seat each in Lok Sabha and six and seven Assembly seats with 1.53 per cent and 1.84 per cent votes respectively. In 1999, while CPM won just two Assembly seats and no LS seat, CPI could not open its account. Both the parties polled 1.70 per cent and 1.26 per cent of votes respectively.
In 2009, both the parties joined the TDP-led grand alliance, but failed to get seats on the expected lines. While the CPI won four Assembly seats, the CPM had to confine with just one Assembly seat. Both the parties miserably failed in Lok Sabha election with 1.31 per cent and 1.35 per cent of the total votes polled respectively.
CPM felt humiliated to its ‘big brother’ status among Left parties, as for the first time during last three decades CPI succeeded in getting more seats in the state Assembly. Though CPI tried to continue its alliance with TDP, CPM had taken a divergent view and attempted to take advantage from YSR Congress Party’s growing popularity. Ignoring severe corrupt charges against YSR CP President YS Jaganmohan Reddy it has decided to forge alliance for the cause of ‘secularism’, sacrificing ‘corruption. However, due to cold response from Reddy, uncertainty continued on seat sharing till withdrawal of nominations.
Meanwhile, CPI hopes on TDP were shattered as the latter revived its association with the BJP after a gap of a decade to take advantage from Narendra Modi’s wave in the country. As against the national policy of ‘non-Congress and non-BJP Third Front’, the red party in Telangana tried to take advantage by forging alliance with TRS and Congress together. The TRS which showed interest initially, later didn’t respond. So it has settled with Congress.
By Ch Narendra from Hyderabad