If there is one trait the Indian left can be easily identified with, it is anti-Americanism. Those like me who have spent greater part of life in Kolkata would recall the left’s popular slogan, markin sambrajyabad, nipat jak (let the American imperialists perish!) that would rent the air till recent past in any meeting or procession they would hold.
In the 70s at the height of naxalite movement, my father sent me away to Dhanbad for college education as he feared that if I continued studying in a city college I might not be able to complete my education because of the turmoil.
The atmosphere then used to be charged with strong anti-American sentiments in Kolkata, and in fact so frequent and intense would the protests be on one pretext or the other especially in front of the US consulate that at one time during Jyoti Basu as CM the consulate was on the verge of closing down in the city.
After completing my education I traveled to many places in India on job, but surprisingly nowhere have I seen such rabid anti-Americanism among the people. Initially I used to believe that the people there were not as politically educated to the dangers of US imperialism to our country as the people of Bengal.
The fact that a higher number of Bengalis (compared to people from other states) laid down their lives during freedom struggle used to play in my mind making me feel proud that only we the Bengalis were the true torch-bearers of India’s destiny. After all, didn’t Gopalkrishna Gokhale once famously said, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow!“
Only much later would my thinking be mature enough to conclude that people in other states in India simply failed to connect the American bombing in Vietnam or its threat to Cuba with their daily mundane living. It did not matter to them what the US did to countries they never visited or hoped to visit. What instead mattered was whether they were able to meet the simple daily needs of their lives.
This in essence was the bedrock of the left’s failure to make any dent in any state other than WB, Kerala and Tripura. Look at the cruel irony that despite ruling Bengal for 3 decades, the left are still in no position to win elections on their own in any of the adjoining states, not to speak of faraway states like Delhi, Gujarat or Punjab.
In Bengal for all these years since it came to power the left’s dogmatic stance of having nothing to do with capital, which in effect meant money and job, drove away business from the state, and made it a graveyard of anything that was associated with merit and money (the two ‘M’s are interlinked because if there is disrespect for merit, the money dries up, and vice-versa).
Now that the state is running after capital is nothing but the result of the realization that no matter how else they try, they just cannot create jobs unless new industries are set up in the state.
Set on the newly found path of big money and industrialization, what makes the left in the present circumstance any different from the other secular political parties in India that don’t pursue caste issues? The answer is ‘Nothing’.
Seen in this perspective, the adamant attitude of the left going as far as threatening to pull down the UPA government makes perfect sense because anti-Americanism is all that remains of its distinct identity.
Is the left concerned that the 123 agreement with the US will be undermined by the Hyde Act – highly unlikely because according to experts the 123 agreement being an ‘international’ regulation will always have precedence over the Hyde Act, which is US’ domestic act – so much so that India cannot undertake nuclear tests in the future?
Not really. If the mammoth protest march in Kolkata in August 1998 after NDA government’s nuclear tests is any indication, there is no reason to believe that the left will be unduly concerned on the matter.
If not this, then what is the all-important reason which is so strong that the left can consider pulling the carpet from under the UPA government knowing that it cannot possibly win those many seats it presently has if the elections are held now?
It is the increasing closeness between India and US that the left dreads. The absence of anti-US plank will be a monumental loss of identity for the left. Because then there’ll be nothing, just nothing with which to differentiate the left from other similar political parties.
Unfortunately, according to me, the left is once again slated to loose the game of relevance. The present geo-political reality keeping in mind the China-Pakistan axis on one hand and China’s growing muscle on the other demands that the US and India come closer. If this does not happen overtly, it will happen covertly. But happen it will.
The US is as interested to close the nuclear deal as the Indian government is. Many may argue that the US interest is mainly because of lucrative contracts for conglomerates like GE that may result if the deal goes through.
While that may be true, what is truer is that the US will simply not do as important as the nuclear deal if it doesn’t fit into their strategic interests. One may be reasonably certain that the chance of Democrats coming to power in November 2008 in US may not change the deal with India.
The question is will this benefit India without it becoming a US ‘subject’ such that it has to obey all US instructions like sending troops to Iraq? My answer is ‘Yes’. India is just too big and proud a country to be cowed down by selfish US interests.
What about the left’s protests? Let me venture into saying that if the left comes to power at the center, it may have to do precisely the same as the present government is doing. Why? Because it has to for otherwise it may be seen acting against the nation’s strategic interests.
Meanwhile, short of being actually able to decide the nation’s destiny, the left will go on with its anti-US protests. The time however may not be far when the people of India, seeing the ill-effects of frequent elections and not knowing how the reasons affect them, will look at the left as a disruptor instead of a builder of the nation.
The time is slipping for the left, slowly but irrevocably.