Dear Shri Pranab Mukherjee,

….that time has come

– Signed: Prakash Karat, A B Bardhan, Debabrata Biswas, T J Chandrachoodan

– and a few of us sighed and others,

Good Riddance! said the TOI editorial,
Lal Salaam! said Bloody Mary and,
in the mayhem added that
airports must be privatized.

I dont know why Sagarika says that all the time,
maybe even the media has an agenda
Do I know what the Left’s agenda is?

then I don’t know why they’re leaving,
Or where they gonna go,
I guess they got their reasons.

Because in early 2004, in reply to a mail which asked whether he was still alive an old comrade said “I am very much alive, and so is the hope for a non NDA alternative at Centre“. AMEN. Hope as a strategy works in theology, not in politics. But then YSR Reddy swept Andhra for the Congress, the BJP declined in key states and the Left posted their best tally ever. The national destiny was re-written with the UPA and Left coming together based on a Common Minimum Programme, and Sonia Gandhi delivering the master stroke by relinquishing the PMO and denying BJP its last straw.

Now that the UPA and the Left are parting, or cutting the flab, the Congress and the CPM are back to their pre-2004 line ups, it is time to take stock. Critics across the divide are looking at the half year they did not give the nation, but what about the four and a half years they gave the nation.

The Good of UPA-Left years

Stability with Dignity: If one remembers the NDA years, despite the coalition having 300 odd seats in the 545 member house, there was George Fernandes and Pramod Mahajan skirting from one “Allied” capital to another appeasing the allies, and the national political scene became a circus around the whims of Trinamool,the DMK, the Sena and other regional and single-issue parties. Despite their differences, and the fact that they are political opponents in the Left’s bastions of Bengal and Kerala, there was a certain dignity maintained by both parties even during the WB & Kerala assembly elections in 2006. Which other two political parties can do this?

The UPA too had constituents, if one looks closely, who don’t have any national accountability and could have rocked the boat any time. This was prevented by those 59 MPs from the left, who sat right in the middle of the house and to some extent by Mulayam Singh’s 39 who toed the Left’s line on any issue. The leaders of the Congress party and the CPM never crossed the limits, and India had 4 and a half years of a stable coalition that worked with dignity.

The Centrist Centre Stage: If one remembers the NDA years, the national stage was pretty much dominated by whether the Vishwa Hindu Parishad will give more time to the centre before they start building the Ram temple? or whether Godhra was the trigger for Gujarat riots? or whether Narendra Moditva can be replicated?

The debate shifted with the 2004 verdict. The Left had no need to interpret the 2004 verdict as one for secularism – for them it was an anti-Congress verdict in Kerala and Bengal, but they did.  “Pseudo-Secularism” – I haven’t heard that word used that often in the past 4 years. India started talking about inclusive growth despite the shining. Programmes like NREG and the Loan Waiver, despite the criticism, made the nation’s priorities clear. The national debate shifted to the left of centre.

Reader’s Words has sanely put it, in the tragic end of an experiment

If the UPA had not gone ahead with the deal, it might have suffered a temporary loss of face, and the Left would have taken the flak for its obstinacy. Ironically, it was Mrs Sonia Gandhi who used the Gandhian technique of sacrificing a position and winning a moral battle. Manmohan Singh has done exactly the reverse- he might have won a battle, but he has lost the war and put to rest the experiment to build a Centrist United Front.

It is a political oppurtunity lost, but I hope the Congress and the CPM come together again in 2009 because they are both patriotic parties and dignified partners. Hope is not a strategy in itself, but as my friend said in 2004, hope is alive for a non-NDA alternative at centre.