For those interested in arcane, fringe developments in Indian politics ~ and that’s exactly what the Left has reduced itself to in the past 50 years ~ a bit of a storm in a teacup is brewing.

Following a decent showing in the recently concluded Bihar election in which the CPI (ML), CPI (M) and CPI together won nearly 20 seats, a prominent face of the first-mentioned of these parties, which could be described as the hard Left as opposed to the latter two more mainstream parties, has come up with an ideological formulation with implications for the role of the Left in the near future including but not limited to the 2021 West Bengal Assembly poll.

This rather convoluted grand idea, as it were, is to work out a theoretically kosher yet practically implementable “line” to defeat what social media socialists believe are political forces fooling all the people all the time. It is, in brief, the thesis that the CPI(M) and CPI had got it all wrong in West Bengal and Tripura where they were politically dominant till not so long ago.

That opposing the Trinamool Congress in these states while okay to an extent, must never triumph over fighting Public Enemy No. 1 which is the “fascist” BJP.

The traditional Left’s position that it must be a robust yet secular opposition to the TMC thereby preventing anti-incumbency votes from going to the BJP is superficially unexceptionable but its fatal flaw, the CPI (ML) believes, is in thinking that by doing so it is carrying out anti-BJP work.

Ditto, the Left Front’s emphasis on fighting what it defines as communalism ~ majority and minority by the BJP and TMC respectively ~ as that in the opinion of the hard Left amounts to equalisation and strengthens the former. The CPI (ML), its spokesperson clarifies, is opposed to any “stage theory” argument in West Bengal suggesting “Ram in 2021, Baam in 2026” which ends up helping the BJP.

The burden of its song is that the Left Front should, instead of expending its available strength in attacking the TMC, focus its attention on alerting the electorate of West Bengal and Tripura to the “existential threat” posed by the BJP.

The mainstream Left parties whose cadre have been victims of the TMC on the ground over the past decade have rejected this self-serving prescription of the CPI (ML). So, leftist echo-chambers on social media and other such rarefied platforms are buzzing with passionate arguments and counters.

Of course, underlying these contorted intellectual calisthenics is the unstated reinforcement of the old Marxist trope of the people’s “false consciousness” which leads them to support and repeatedly vote in the very same “fascist forces” the Left rails against. An honest assessment of why and how the BJP has gained mass support would have been far more useful. But that would be too much, perhaps, to expect from any shade of the Left.