At their lowest, Left parties in battle for survival: A SWOT analysis

Down to just five MPs in the 17th Lok Sabha, the Left parties, part of the opposition INDIA bloc, are engaged in a do-or-die battle in this general elections after hitting an all-time low tally in the 2019 polls.
Left parties
Left parties

New Delhi | Down to just five MPs in the 17th Lok Sabha, the Left parties, part of the opposition INDIA bloc, are engaged in a do-or-die battle in this general elections after hitting an all-time low tally in the 2019 polls.

The Left parties, prominent among which are the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, Revolutionary Socialist Party and the All India Forward Bloc, have witnessed a steep decline in their electoral performance over the last two decades.

For the CPI(M), its status as a national party is also at stake with its shrinking footprints.

Here is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the Left parties as they fight to hold ground in the Lok Sabha polls.


* The Left Democratic Front and the United Democratic Front, led by the Congress, are contesting independently in Kerala, where the BJP is looking to make a dent. The opposition bloc together is hoping to retain all seats.

* In West Bengal, the TMC has gone solo. The CPI(M) has announced 16 candidates and has maintained that a seat-sharing pact with the Congress is still possible. With sharp attacks on the TMC, the Left and the Congress may manage to dent the BJP's prospects by pocketing some of the anti-incumbency votes.

* Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, which had recorded below one per cent vote share in 2019, made its mark in the recent Bihar assembly polls in which it got over three per cent of votes. The Left parties, including the CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M), won 16 seats in the Bihar assembly.


* With just five MPs in the current Lok Sabha -- three from the CPI(M) and two from the Communist Party of India (CPI) -- the Left parties are at their lowest in almost six decades.

* Between 1990 and 2009, the Left parties maintained a steady place in India's electoral politics at the national level, even coming close to having a prime minister from the CPI(M) when the United Front government was formed in 1996.

* The Left parties reached a peak in 2004 when the CPI(M) sent 43 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the CPI 10 and the AIFB and RSP sent three MPs each.

* However, in the decade between 2009 and 2019, the decline of the Left parties was sharp. It lost the West Bengal Assembly elections to the TMC in 2011 and the Tripura Assembly elections to the BJP in 2018. In Kerala, where the Left Democratic Front is in power, the Left managed only one seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

* From 1971 to 2009, the vote share of the CPI(M) remained over five per cent. In 2009, it got 5.3 per cent votes in the Lok Sabha polls, which came down to 3.3 per cent in 2014.

* The CPI got as high as 9.9 per cent votes in 1962 which fell to a little over 5 per cent in 1967 and around 2.5 percent in 1991. In 2004, the party had a 1.4 per cent vote share.

* In the 2009 polls, the CPI(M) won 16 seats, while the CPI won four. The All India Forward Bloc also won two seats.

* The CPI(M) had nine MPs in 2014, the CPI and RSP had one each. In 2019, the CPI(M) got just 1.75 per cent of votes, while CPI got a little more than 0.5 per cent.


* While it is clear there will be no seat-sharing agreement with the Congress in Kerala, in Tamil Nadu, where the CPI(M) and CPI have sitting MPs, the parties are fighting on two seats each as part of the ruling DMK's alliance.

* The Left parties are also optimistic about Bihar, where with the Janata Dal-United's exit from the Mahagathbandhan, the CPI(ML), CPI(M) and CPI are looking at getting more seats.

* In Jharkhand, as a part of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance, the Left parties are looking at being accommodated in seat-sharing talks.

* In Tripura, which was ruled by the CPI(M) till 2018, a tripartite agreement signed recently among the Union government, the BJP-led Tripura government and the main opposition party TIPRA Motha has added to the CPI(M)'s arsenal.


* The Left parties still face the challenge of getting their desired number of seats as a part of the opposition bloc in several states, where talks remain stuck.

* In Kerala, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, fighting from Wayanad once again, may work against the Left as it is expected to sway more votes in favour of the UDF.

* The BJP's emergence in the state also presents a challenge for the Left. The saffron party had around 13 per cent vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the state against 25 per cent of the LDF and 37 per cent of the UDF.

* In West Bengal, while TMC remains the largest party, the BJP's emergence in the last Lok Sabha elections and the state assembly polls poses a major threat to the Left parties' aspirations. Seat-sharing talks with the Congress have not yet been closed.

* In Tripura, where the BJP holds both the Lok Sabha seats and is now in alliance with the Tipra Motha, the Congress has also shown interest in fielding candidates with the CPI(M)'s support.

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