New Delhi: The Communist Party of India: In the aftermath of the party’s split in 1964 partly as a consequence of the Chinese aggression, the Marxist breakaway faction grew in strength compared to the principal entity, which aligned with Indira Gandhi’s Congress party to further debility, and became largely irrelevant in the decades following the Emergency. To be sure, the party had doughty leaders whose hallmark in Delhi’s murky political world was their shining integrity and their proclivity to call a spade a spade. Rarely has a politician gone through so much agonizing as did Indrajit Gupta when called upon to be the Union home minister in the Third Front government in the later 1990s after a lifetime spent at the barricades. Between the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the first had more interesting leaders.

But the Marxists kept them relevant. For all the terror that successive Left Front governments spread in West Bengal, especially in the rural areas, protocol-wise, Left Front unity was exemplary. The quota of seats for the smaller Left and Left-leaning parties was kept by and large stable, and if the Communist Party of India has survived so long, the Marxists must be thanked. But on one thing the Marxists would not yield, which was the reunification of the two communist parties. Till the 1990s, there were explicit conversations in that direction, but the final deal remained elusive.

The Communist Party of India presently under Doraiswamy Raja is barely alive, and the waning Marxists can no longer be a source of support and succour. Commentators have wondered why the parliamentary Left has shrunk while the Maoists are gaining territory. Perhaps the Marxists with greater stakes should be more concerned but the Communist Party of India cannot rest easy either. Among other things, it points to a crisis of identity. In young transforming India, the parliamentary Left is unable to position itself, and its anti-Congress, anti-Bharatiya Janata Party sloganeering has grown jaded, and moreover lacks credibility. The two Communist parties have a future if they unite and pool their resources, relinquish leadership positions to popularly elected legislators and parliamentarians, and attempt a broad equivalent of Britain’s New Labour programme for political revival. Divided, and as they are, shambling along aimlessly, they are finished. Rating of the Communist Party of India: 1 out of 10.

Rashtriya Janata Dal: With Laloo Prasad Yadav in jail on account of the fodder scam, his party is in deep trouble. Old loyalties demand that the Congress ally with the party for the Lok Sabha election, but the dynastic Nehru-Gandhi outfit is looking favourably towards Nitish Kumar after his break with the Bharatiya Janata Party over the ascent of Narendra Modi. But aside from all this, how does it look for the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar? Bad.

People have not forgotten Laloo Yadav’s misrule which is why they brought the Janata Dal-United/ Bharatiya Janata Party alliance to power. No sooner than this alliance unravelled than Bihar seems headed towards administrative collapse. Nitish Kumar is no longer in control of things, hiding behind the bureaucracy. Meanwhile, just a single rally of Narendra Modi has rooted Nitish Kumar in fear. He is bewildered and stonked by its runaway success.

The message in this for Bihar’s politicians is that the Bharatiya Janata Party is resurgent in the state. Modi’s mantra of self-help, growth and development has caught the people’s imagination, especially of the youth, who Nitish Kumar and Laloo Yadav preferred to keep subjected with handouts and crumbs cast from the table. Both these regional upstarts are headed for doom in the state. Although perhaps it cannot get worse for Laloo Yadav, his party will bleed in Bihar. It does not stand a chance alone, but its position would be infinitely worsened after a tie-up with the Congress, which is headed for a national rout. At the same time, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Janata Dal-United and the Congress will cut into one another separately standing against the Bharatiya Janata Party, and bound together, they would lose credibility by the aggregation of their sins. The imprisonment of Laloo Yadav is the beginning of the end of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Rating: Minus 3.

Biju Janata Dal: The party did well in the panchayat polls but if the Narendra Modi factor plays out in Orissa, the going might get tougher in the 2014 general election, which, should it happen, would go to show the limits of Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik’s appeal.

To Patnaik’s biggest advantage, the Congress as an opposition party is nearly obliterated in the state. The party is deeply fractionated and the chief minister has been trucking with one faction or the other at various times. Besides, after the split with the Bharatiya Janata Party, Naveen Patnaik has become politically stronger. His former aide and present mortal foe, Pyarimohan Mahapatra, worked out the strategy to make the break with the Bharatiya Janata Party. But ironically, the chief minister has not made great strides after striking out alone, but rather become diminished in the while. He has political strength, but it is not joined with vision for statesmanship.

Naveen Patnaik lacks vision. He commenced with the aim to combat corruption in Orissa and the bureaucracy in the initial years faced the heat of his zeal. That zeal is markedly blunted today and Orissa’s bountiful resources of iron ore and bauxite provide enormous underhand opportunities for officials. To the extent that Naveen Patnaik has turned a blind eye to the looting and merely ensured that he is not implicated. He is being called the Manmohan Singh of Orissa.

The “betrayal” of Pyarimohan Mahapatra, a former Indian Administrative Services’ officer, is what apparently has shaken Patnaik to the bone, and made him insecure about the chief-ministership and the party. Mahapatra got Patnaik to breach with the Bharatiya Janata Party and then sought to take over the leadership when the chief minister was abroad. Up to a third of Biju Janata Dal legislators could be with Mahapatra, and this has left Patnaik embattled, and drained of energy for governance. The Congress-led Central government is also blocking industrial growth opportunities in the state for political reasons.

This writer believes regional parties have a limited future unless they actively seek alliances with one of the two national parties. Being traditional rivals, the Biju Janata Dal cannot go with the Congress, and the Bharatiya Janata Party seems a closed option currently, although equations may change after the 2014 polls. But one thing is evident. Naveen Patnaik has no talent for governance although he has had an extraordinary run of luck to survive so long. But this state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. Rating of the Biju Janata Dal: 1 out of 10.

Also read “The party begins...1,” “The party begins...2,” “The party begins...3,” “The party begins...4” and “The party begins...5.”

To be continued...