Two Prakashs of Indian politics received a good amount of media attention during the last fortnight. Prakash Karat of CPI(M) and Prakash Ambedkar of Bhartiya Republican Party of India Bahujan Mahasangh. Comrade Karat got his resolution of “No alliance and No cooperation with Congress” passed with a comfortable margin of 55-31 in the central committee meeting of his party. He defeated a faction led by his party’s General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on this issue. Prakash Ambedkar created a mini sensation when he chose to remain absent from a ‘Save the Constitution’ march on Republic Day in Mumbai, organized by many opposition parties (including Congress), civil society and activists jointly.
Prima facie, these seem to be two separate developments with nothing to connect them. But these two events occurring when the clouds of fascism are looming large over the country, together they have a larger significance and makes me wonder if this could affect the political discourse in the months to come, prior to 2019 elections. Both the eminent leaders and their parties are avowed opponents of fascism.
Even a cursory look at the history of communist ideology in the world reveals that the first emphatic victory over fascism was scored by the Russian Red Army in the battle of Stalingrad in World War II with extraordinary valour and bravado. Hitler’s marauding forces could never fully recover from this ignominious defeat. This raised the spirit of other allied countries and Hitler/Mussolini’s fascism was finally buried in the soil of Europe. In India, one may have issues with Left’s economic and other policies but certainly, a finger cannot be raised against its commitment and trepidity to resist any form of fascism. That BJP and its diabolic agenda could never establish a base in Bengal during Left rule is an apt example. And Mamata Didi is equally tough.
That Comrade Yechury and Comrade D Raja walked shoulder to shoulder with us in ‘Save the Constitution’ march and yet, Congress becomes “untouchable” for Comrade Karat at this critical juncture, is flummoxing!”
Historically, Congress and Left have always had a love and hate relationship. The squabbles have always been limited to issues and policies, primarily economic, foreign affairs and investments. Most of these issues have been resolved in a democratic manner, either through a proper dialogue or on the floor of Parliament. The decisions taken have been respected by both. Congress never blacklisted Left when it pulled out its support to UPA government after the nuclear pact with the USA. For a whopping 43 years post independence, before economic liberalisation was unleashed in palatable doses, Congress adopted a Nehruvian Socialism of mixed economy and maintained a close relationship with a Communist Russia. Well, Congress was ridiculed as a party towards the Left of the centre and not a centrist by the then Jan Sangh. Indira Gandhi laughed it off saying, it would prefer to be towards the left than towards the right of the centre.
In other words, the left leanings of Congress is no secret and Congress has no qualms about it. Today we are witnessing what can only be described as the butchering of innocent people in the false notions of nationalism. Disastrous economic policies and immature financial decisions have wrecked havoc in the life of workers, farmers and lower middle classes. The unchecked arrogance of the current dispensation has reached its peak where religious supremacy is thrust upon the country, making minorities, Dalits being treated as secondary citizens and even ministers are talking shamelessly that they have assumed the power to alter the secular constitution of India. That Comrade Yechury and Comrade D Raja walked shoulder to shoulder with us in ‘Save the Constitution’ march and yet, Congress becomes “untouchable” for Comrade Karat at this critical juncture, is flummoxing! I can only pray that he does a rethink before his party's general session in April, where his resolution will be ratified or rejected, in the larger interest of the country. Any prickliness with Congress can always be sorted out.
This is the time when Prakashji [Ambedkar] ji needs as many friends as possible across the political spectrum to consolidate his position. I am not naive to suggest that in politics, friends always help. However, enemies definitely cause damage.”
Prakash Ambedkar in my state of Maharashtra is emerging as the erudite leader of Dalits after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. He is astute, educated and sophisticated. It is these qualities that make him stand apart from those who claimed to be the champions of the Dalit cause but have fallen for allurements and largesse of BJP. I personally witnessed how they have lost their trustworthiness and are now being hated by Dalit community. This is the time when Prakashji needs as many friends as possible across the political spectrum to consolidate his position. I am not naive to suggest that in politics, friends always help. However, enemies definitely cause damage. Whatever discomfort he had with certain leaders participating in the march, the march was no occasion to display it. It was an expression of disenchantment with current rulers and solidarity with the Constitution.
I understand that his absence is a hot topic on social media these days. Such unwarranted gossip is potent enough to besmirch someone’s reputation. After all, what Dr Ambedkar initiated many years ago was a movement to bring Dalit community, left out by the inhuman caste system, into the mainstream with equal opportunities. Why shy away from shaking hands with Congress, to begin with? I am sure Prakash Karat and Prakash Ambedkar are both bright enough to distinguish who the real enemy is and how any rigid stance may eventually help the monster grow.
Returning to World War II again, towards its end, a joint statement issued by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin at the Yalta Conference on 11 February 1945 is noteworthy. Expressing their firm resolve to completely destroy the military power of Germany, it identifies Nazi as the “common enemy and agrees that their armed forces would join hands in future lest the fascism resurfaces in Germany”. Interesting! A communist country, a capitalist country and a country with substantial presence of labour movement, unitedly identifying fascism as a common enemy. There is a lot to learn from history, isn’t it?
Ashok Chavan is Member of Parliament from Nanded, President of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra. These are his personal views, first published as a blog on Facebook. He tweets at @AshokChavanINC