In Search of a Strategy

Boycott as a permanent electoral strategy has failed to motivate voters even at a time when falsifying history is saffron fascism’s favourite pastime. The naxalites first tried to make an alternative approach to parliamentary politics by giving election boycott call, albeit what they propagated as an alternative was neither convincing nor feasible. Then the naxalite camp itself got divided over the issue in course of time and most groups decided against boycott. Given the circumstances , they think, this boycott call has lost its political relevance. Naxalite groups that now participate in elections review their past boycott idea as an ideological blunder. Despite their participation and support to electoral system people are still reluctant to take them seriously in election battle. Not that there was no opposition to boycott call in the camp but they were silenced by the traditional communist practice of expulsion and isolation. They were either ‘revisionist’ or ‘anti-revolutionary’, luckily not anti-national as the Modis were nowhere around in those days of turmoil. To give the boycott call permanency the revolutionary potential of the situation was exaggerated and that legacy continues to haunt the movement even today when things are totally different both nationally and internationally. Barring the CPI (Maoist), no outfit on the far left subscribes to the strategy of permanent boycott. For the Maoist party it is the strategy, not tactics. The maoist party has decided not to participate in any kind of electoral politics—not even in rural bodies, throughout the period of what they call new democratic stage of revolution. So it was quite natural for them to boycott the ensuing 17th parliamentary poll and asked the voters not to go to polling booths. Just on the eve of polls they ambushed with security forces, hopefully to send a message to willing voters and the authorities. Tragically poor voters are in cross-fire as security forces too are terrorising them and forcing them to queue up in line before polling centres.

Despite threat and counter threat, people look willing to vote facing all the hazards and knowing full well that nothing radical will happen after the poll. They don’t want to abrogate their constitutional right. Even in Kashmir voters defied election boycott call of separatists. As in Chattisgarh, Kashmir too witnessed violence on the eve of poll and the terrorists and jihadists tried to send their terror message by engaging themselves with the para-military forces. In Kashmir torture was widespread under virtual military rule and hundreds of protesters and agitationists were murdered or disappeared in the years gone and yet, vote has not lost its appeal as the current phase of polling shows. Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had called for boycott a day before the polling. But the reported high percentage of voting in many segments of North Kashmir’s Baramula parliamentary constituency may have embarrassed the Geelanis. Geelani, however, repeating the appeal for complete boycott of election, said that’ people who are suppressed, caged, brutalized and maimed’, on one or the other pretext have no moral or ethical right to be part of any elections. But many voters while talking to media expressed their hope that peace would return after peaceful poll.

People’s support cannot be mobilised by resorting to terror tactics. No doubt terror is the weapon of the weak but indiscriminate terror is also a source of isolation. This is one reason maoists continue to face mass isolation despite their noble cause and huge sacrifice for radical transformation of society. Neither separatists nor maoists in central India have been able to win the support of masses through political campaigns. Terror tactic may make the people passive for the time being but it will never be any material force without which all movements are bound to fail.

For one thing why the far left that participates in elections continues to operate on the fringe deserves attention. They are still a negligible force in terms of electoral politics, not to speak of their radical outlook. Not that they have been able to successfully utilise election as a platform to expand their shrinking mass base. Participating in elections without attacking the status quo at the roots is one thing. But to participate in elections with an idea of alternative model of governance beyond the status quo is quite another. Voters could hardly differentiate between the left and far left when it is the question of electoral politics. Also, they don’t find any difference between left-wing electioneering and right-wing campaign for votes.

If today communists are in news for electoral success or failures, it is because of their past agitational mass organising to champion people’s cause. Also, if they are marginalised and rejected by voters in some states like Bengal and Tripura, it is because of their alienation from mass movements. Only strong mass movements can force the persons in authority to talk sense and act responsively. If today all political parties, left and right alike, are talking about the plight of farmers and placing farmers on their agenda at least, it is because of some strong farmers’ movements developed spontaneously under local and independent initiatives. Not for nothing the Congress party consulted the Bharatiya Kisan Union of Rakesh Tikait before formulating their poll manifesto.

Vol. 51, No. 42, Apr 21 - 27, 2019