Saturday, June 05, 2021

How Communist party vote declined in India: Political parties, opposition and CPI, CPM strength


Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Communist party was once the rising party in Indian politics. 

That's long ago. But after independence, there was a time, when there were apprehensions among establishment that Communist movement may sweep across the country. 

Huge rallies were taken out in several cities. The sentiment was there and hence, Congress was worried about it. 

From parts of Bihar to UP, Andhra Pradesh to cities with mills and workers, there was Communist affect.

Today it's difficult to imagine how Homi Daji could win from Indore. Or that Sher-e-Bhopal, Khan Shakir Ali Khan, kept winning and getting elected from Bhopal seat to Madhya Pradesh Assembly till 1970s.

So, from Bhopal to Indore, Kanpur to Allahabad, cities in Maharashtra and regions in several other states had the influence of Communist parties or their leaders who were regionally strong. Earlier, there was a period when the party got split. Its vote share was affected.

But it remained an important player because it was getting vote in certain states. Under Jyoti Basu, West Bengal went on to become a Communist citadel. In Kerala, CPI became strong. Besides, in other states, there were pockets that had Communist influence.

In the 1951-52, the first Parliamentary election, Communist Party of India (CPI) got 3.3% of popular vote and managed to win 16 seats. It hadn't contested on too many seats then. But the party was gaining strength throughout the decade.

The next election witnessed, a surge in its popularity. It got 8.9% vote. CPI won 27 seats. This was emergence as an important block in the House. However, the best performance was yet to come. The party did even better in next election.

In 1962, the CPI got almost 10% vote. [9.9% to be precise]. This was an achievement. However, the party suffered a setback, as there was the split. Either it was purely ideological or the China Vs USSR, the party was divided in India. 

CPI(M) and CPI, the two parties emerged. Later on, the former became strong in Bengal under Jyoti Basu. The latter found a foothold in Southern India, Kerala. At national level, their consolidated vote share declined.

The Communist movement too lost its pace. Still, due to strength in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, the coalition with other parties in several states, the Communists had a hold in Indian politics. In fact, Harkishan Singh Surjeet played a key role in formation of governments at the Centre.

In the late 1980s, the formation of National Front, then the 1990s when United Front was at the helm, Communists' support was important for these governments' formation. Again, when there was Congress' resurgence led by Sonia Gandhi, Communists' strength was important for UPA. 

In 2004, CPI (M) contested just 69 seats but got a nation wide 5.66% vote and won 43 seats. It's vote share was third, after Congress' 26.5% and BJP's 22.16%. CPI (Marxist) had got more votes than SP and BSP. CPI had 1.4% vote in this election. 

In 2009, it was 5.33% and 1.43% for CPIM and CPI respectively. But 2014 was the year of disaster. CPI(M) got barely 3.25% votes. CPI could fetch merely 0.78% votes. And, in 2019, BJP came to power on it's own. CPI (M) performance was at its worst, just 1.75% vote. CPI got 0.58% vote.