He is correct in noting that the choice is not between leaders, but fails to emphasize that the choice is more conceptual: if you want growth vote for Modi, if you want harmony vote for someone else.
That IMO is an improper choice as well because of the dubious nature of claims on both sides- Modi has no magic wand for the economy and the so-called secular parties have (in recent times) an even poorer record of preserving communal harmony than the BJP.
Prof Prashad should have done the right thing and confessed that he and other fellow travelers of the left seriously f**ked up matters by not joining hands with the Indians Against Corruption folks (now morphed into Aam Aadmi Party) and channelizing the popular anger into a broad-based movement when they had their chance 2 years ago. That would have given them exactly what they wanted: a secular, third Front with the urban middle-class on board (and prevent the false choice above from gaining ground, it can be argued that corruption harms the economy as well).
The IAC movement was boycotted by the left for supposedly having right-wing connections. More to the point the left just cant stand nationalists like Anna Hazare (who in turn has abandoned AAP and is now promoting Mamata Banerjee because he has ego issues with Arvind Kejriwal).
The failure of the left (always has been) is short-sightedness and arrogance, and now the entire house of cards (third front) has fallen apart in Tamil Nadu and everywhere else. Could not happen to a nicer bunch of people.
What will save India from the Modi juggernaut is that it doesn’t have
a presidential system. The people will elect 543 new members of
parliament. The winning bloc will have to secure half the seats, not
easy for the Congress (206 seats in the last parliament) or the BJP (117
seats). Since 1967, the Indian government has been formed out of
alliances that include regional parties with deep roots in the Indian
states. The old days of a single party ruling the roost are gone;
regional parties are now able to dictate terms for the coalition. It is
what moderates the extremism of the BJP – but only out of necessity.
Modi’s toxicity has turned off core allies, leaving the BJP with the
confidence of a lion but the alliances of a skunk. To complicate
matters, a new anti-corruption party – the Aam Aadmi Party
– promises to directly challenge the Congress and the BJP in their
north Indian heartlands. If they are able to do so, it will strengthen
the hand of the Third Front.
Third Front, under various names, has made an appearance in each
election since 1967. It brings together regional parties and the Left
Front, which is often its backbone. They are united by their antipathy
to both the Congress and the BJP, and their commitment to secularism and
social justice. No easy common programme can be produced, largely
because the parties in the Front differ hugely in their assessment of
how the country should develop. Nevertheless, one of its contributions
has been to move India in a federal direction to empower the states
(Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has a population of 200
million, larger than most countries in the world).
In a country of
India’s scale, federalism is a pathway to democracy. In a fractured
parliament the Third Front could broker a government committed to social
justice and secularism – as it did in 2004 when the Congress was pushed
to create social welfare schemes such as the National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act. When the Left broke with the Congress in 2009, the
alliance that remained – the UPA – departed from any commitment to
relief. Only when the Left is a vital part of the Third Front has this
alliance been able to push for reforms to rebuild the hopes and lives of
hundreds of millions of Indians who live below any given standard of a
poverty line. Only when the Left and its allies are stronger yet will
they be able to chart an alternative direction for India.