Naveen Patnaik was to Christians of Orissa what Narendra Modi was to Muslims of Gujarat. As is often the  case, Indian elections disturb all other ideological and political equations for a seat or two in Indian Parliament.  Here is a new development;  if true, the glorious history of the Communist movement against communalism  makes a drastic shift by including Naveen Patnaik in the conglomerate  of secular formation.


In what must count as the most sensational development so far in this election season, the BJD seems to have decided  to terminate its decade-old partnership with the BJP. Buoyed by its recent electoral success in municipal elections in  which it had independently swept the polls over large parts of urban Orissa, the BJD leadership asked the BJP to settle  for a reduced number of seats in both Assembly and Parliament elections. A shell-shocked BJP was quick to  withdraw from the ruling coalition, and in no time the CPI(M) has stepped in to fill the gap. For the CPI(M), Naveen  Patnaik has overnight become the latest icon of the fledgling ‘Third Front’ and a secular hero to boot!


The Orissa developments hold a pretty good mirror to the emerging patterns of coalition politics in India. Time was  when the NDA boasted of some twenty-odd constituents. Today with the BJP’s stock going down and down, allies  have started deserting the coalition one after another. The remaining allies like the Akali Dal in Punjab, Shiv Sena in  Maharashtra and JD(U) in Bihar will obviously utilise this discomfiture of the BJP to demand a bigger share of the  coalition pie. Inasmuch as Naveen Patnaik’s decision to walk out on the decade-old partnership with the BJP could  aggravate the predicament of the BJP/NDA camp, it would surely be welcomed by all secular democratic people in  the country.


But the alacrity with which the CPI(M) has responded to the developments in Orissa goes much farther than this  general sense of relief and welcome. It is one thing to encourage a rift or rupture in the NDA, and quite another to rush  into an alliance with whoever parts ways with the BJP. Still more pitiable is the CPI(M)’s desperate attempt to  legitimise and lionise someone like Naveen Patnaik with a view to securing some electoral gains!


The CPI(M) has already absolved Naveen Patnaik of all his culpability in the anti-Christian carnage in Kandhamal  that claimed scores of innocent lives and rendered thousands of Christian families homeless and traumatised refugees  in their own land. In fact, CPI(M) leaders would like us to believe that it was the Kandhamal carnage that triggered  Naveen Patnaik’s ‘change of heart’! With hindsight they can now also discover flickers of secular remorse in the BJD  leadership when the Modi brigade scripted the Gujarat genocide seven years ago! And Kalinganagar, Kashipur and  Posco are perhaps only necessary symbols of ‘industrialisation’ and ‘governance’ like Singur, Nandigram and  Lalgarh?


Chandrababu Naidu, Jayalalitha, Mayawati and now Naveen Patnaik – they are the pillars of the CPI(M)’s dream  ‘Third Front’ that, according to the CPI(M), will guarantee secularism and protect the Indian people from the  scourge of global recession! Naveen Patnaik may have demonstrated his growing strength and confidence by  choosing this moment to dissociate from the BJP, the CPI(M) is only exposing its growing desperation by  overnight turning him into a secular hero.


(From Liberation (CPI-ML’s publication) April 2009)

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