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Prakash Karat

After our rout in Bengal, I'm a shattered man. But I am not surprised...

Prakash Karat
Illustration by Sandeep Adhwaryu
Prakash Karat

After our rout in Bengal, I’m a shattered man. But I am not surprised. Remember, a year ago I had predicted to my old comrade, Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, that the Left was “beleaguered and besieged” and that I feared we would fare poorly in Bonga-Bonga land. Interestingly, around that time, I had also run into my favourite crime fiction writer, Ian Rankin, in London. I had shared my concern about the Left’s decline with him too. Ian waxed philosophical as a Stones song, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, played in the background. “Look Prakash,” he said, “in my university days I tried my hand at new wave and punk and failed miserably. But then I reinvented myself and started arranging alphabets in different permutations and combinations. That’s how I became a writer. Well, the long and short of it is that reinvention is the name of the game. Look at how (Bobby) Dylan sold The Times They Are A Changin’ as a jingle to the Bank of Montreal. You have to recast yourself. You guys have been in power for decades, you have to change. You have to sell out,” he said prophetically.

When the results poured in, I remembered his words. Once it was clear that we were out, I even got calls from film producers and curious journos wondering whether there was any truth to the tweets about my directing a film (scripted by Rankin) titled ‘Friday the 13th: Nightmare on Alimuddin Street’. What bakwas! I was never into making films although I must confess I don’t mind directing an item number provided the lead dancer has at least attempted reading Das Kapital and doesn’t mind pouting the Marx slogan—‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’—at the song’s climax. Of course, the bit I direct would have to be shot in such a manner that it appears left of centre on the screen.

Anyway, I have also been receiving some non-film calls. Somebody from the US pollsters Gallup rung up wondering whether I would like to sign on as an expert. “Since you so accurately foretold the Left’s rout, we thought it would be a good idea if you could predict defeats in other countries which are expected to go in for elections. Mr Karat, your input would be vital since all our surveys clearly reveal that if the losers are identified, it becomes easy to spot the winners.” I politely told the gentleman that I would have to consult the politburo before getting into any commercial arrangement. However, the idea of travelling around the world predicting failures excited me enough to make me listen to Back in the USSR (opening track of The White Album) half a dozen times before falling into a slumber and dreaming about ‘Galluping’ through Letpadan, Burma (my birthplace), where free and fair polls were taking place in 2020. I was just beginning to enjoy my journey when the phone rang. It was Sitaram Yechury. “Prakash, I got this call from Nielsen. They want me to predict defeats. Should I go for it...?”

(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)

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