Results have come in from several Indian states to have held state legislative assembly elections over recent weeks. The main Communist parties have done well in West Bengal and Kerala. In the case of West Bengal, the alliance of two major Communist parties has been reelected to a seventh straight term, confirming its status as the longest ruling democratically elected Communist government in the world. In Kerala, the Communists return to power, ousting an incumbent government of the Indian National Congress.
What is particularly interesting about these outcomes is that the Left parties are part of a formalized coalition with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), centered around the Congress party (and also containing numerous state-specific parties), at the federal level. Yet Congress and the Left parties compete against each other for control of state governments, including Kerala and West Bengal.
The Left parties have just over 7% of the seats in the federal lower house (on a similar vote share, given that they obtain most of their votes in India’s FPTP system in just a few states), and without these legislators’ support, the UPA would not have a majority in the federal parliament and could be vulnerable to no-confidence motions submitted by the other main pan-India party, the BJP, and various state-specific parties.