Interesting take on the Left parties on FP May Day musings: Why the Left deserves a ‘lal salaam’ | Firstpost This may sound heretical, but this May Day, I actually miss the Left parties. I know, I know, they are ideological dinosaurs, relics of a failed economic philosophy that has been nuked out of existence in many parts of the erstwhile Communist world. And yet in India, Communists thrive â€“ like cockroaches that have survived a nuclear war. Fascination with erstwhile Communist dictators extends even to centrist party leaders in India: a former Chief Minister of a southern State, for instance, named his son after Stalin â€“ a nomenclatural mishap from 50 years ago that doesnâ€™t embarrass either the benighted father or the son to this day. Up until 2009, the Left parties were even influencing policy at the central level, offering the Congress-led UPA government support from the outside. At that time, of course, you couldnâ€™t wait for the earth to open up and swallow them whole, particularly when we were compelled to hear Sitaram Yechury pontificate on prime time television or were subjected to D Rajaâ€™s grating diction as he held forth on every policy proposal with an authority that vastly exceeded his partyâ€™s feeble representation in Parliament. So long as the Left parties were supporting the government, the Manmohan Singh government had an alibi for not being bold with its economic reforms. Based on the excuses that the UPA government trotted out, and the shadowboxing over the Common Minimum Programme that they had ironed out, we wondered idly about the things that â€œManmohan the reformerâ€ would do if he werenâ€™t burdened by the millstone of the â€œloony Leftâ€. Which is why when Manmohan Singh, in a rare moment of political courage, stood up to the Left partiesâ€™ blackmail on the issue of a civil nuclear agreement with the US, we celebrated the moment. And when the Left parties were comprehensively trounced in the 2009 elections, we saw it as the chance to make progress on long-delayed reforms. The fund manager for a leading FII told me in June 2009 that ahead of the May 2009 elections, he had misread the likely political outcome. â€œI adhered to the theory that there will be more fragmentation, that provincial parties would increase their influence,â€ Ed Pulling of JF Asset Management said. From a political perspective, the election results were the best possible outcome, he added. â€œIf the Congress executes well over the next three to five years, there is a chance that the next time their position could be even stronger. I havenâ€™t been able to say that for at least 10 years.â€ (More here.) And, yet, look at where we are today. Not only have we not made progress on reforms, but â€“ as Shekhar Gupta noted recently â€“ â€œthe UPA has completely changed the reformist mood to a dark, negative povertarian discourse of the seventies.â€ The problem, of course, is that in our enthusiasm about seeing the Left off, we didnâ€™t realise that the fault really lay elsewhere: in the sheer political cowardice of the Congress and its allies in government â€“ and, yes, in the Opposition parties too. The Left parties may have been the lightning rod for media criticism, but the real loony Left mindset resided in the Congress and in the Trinamool Congress and, yes, even in the BJP. With all their faults and ideological rigidity, the Left parties were at least consistent in their position on political and economic issues: even when they withdrew support in 2008 on the civilian nuclear agreement with the US, they were being faithful to their ideological position, however much of a losing proposition it turned out to be. But the ideological bankruptcy of the Congress and the others effectively means that they donâ€™t stand for anything â€“ except the most brazen populism. Which is why all weâ€™ve seen is reflexive, knee-jerk do-goodism masquerading as â€œsocial justice.â€ And even within the Left, parties, for instance, there was room for a Buddhadeb Bhattacharya to articulate a less ideologically rigid position on the economy and even attempt tentative reforms. But of course, along came Mamata Banerjee to out-left the Left by pandering the lowest common denominator of populism. So long as the Left parties were part of the ruling arrangement at the Centre, they at least acted as the last line of opposition to any reform measure. They were the yardstick against which parties measured themselves to hold their â€œloony Leftâ€ instincts in check. But without them, itâ€™s a virtual slippery slope, with each party plunging into the bottomless pit of cynical populist politics. And with the Congress afraid of its own shadow, thereâ€™s not even the pretence of implementing any meaningful reforms. The Italian political philosopher Machiavelli said there was merit in keeping your friends close to you â€“ and your enemies even closer. I honestly think the Congress was well served by having the Left supporting the government â€“ and playing within the policy pen that it had to itself. Now, it has to deal with its own insecurities, multiplied manifold by the infirmity of ideologically vacuous coalition partners who reflexively block any attempt at reforms. Which is why, I offer a feeble lal salam to the Left parties this May Day, however much it may hurt my pride. They honestly make me yearn for the â€œgood old daysâ€ of 2004 â€“ when we at least knew what we wouldnâ€™t get and therefore didnâ€™t get our hopes crushed on a daily basis.