The CPI(M), the biggest Left party in the country, is busy discussing its future political course in a five-day long party congress that started on April 18 in Hyderabad.
The 22nd party congress is taking place at a time when the CPI(M) is facing an existential crisis. The party is in power in just one state, Kerala, after the BJP ended the 25-year communist rule in Tripura.
#CPIM22PartyCongress Flag Hoisting. pic.twitter.com/5rL2jGKdXP— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) April 18, 2018
#CPIM22PartyCongress felicitates party veteran Comrade @vs1923, Member of the 1st Central Committee of the CPIM and former Kerala CM. Hall reverberates with slogans of "Comrade Achuthanandan ko Lal Salaam!" pic.twitter.com/uvFD01wg3O— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) April 18, 2018
The base of the party is continuously eroding in its erstwhile citadel West Bengal, where the BJP is filling the Opposition space against the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Added to all these issues, another crucial issue is to keep the party undivided. Already, there are divisions inside the party regarding the issue of alliance with the Congress party.
The current general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, supported by a large section of the Bengal brigade wants an alliance with the grand old party to defeat the BJP in the coming general elections. On the other side, Kerala brigade led by former general secretary Prakash Karat is against any sort of proximity with the Congress.
According to Karat, the CPI(M) along with the other Left allies should fight the BJP from its own pockets of influence and for the rest seats it would be better to support the “strongest opposition” candidate.
It seems that the five-day long party congress would be wasting all its energy discussing the issue of alliance with the Congress. The comrades have forgotten that the historic split of CPI in 1964 into two factions - pro-Congress CPI and anti-Congress CPI(M) - was also due to the differences regarding relations with the Congress party.
Once again history is repeating in the CPI(M). So much so that it might lead to another split in the party. The question is: Why do comrades fight among themselves over proximity with the Congress time and again?
The reason is the perception among the Leftists and their intellectual friends that the centrist Congress is much better than rightist parties like the Jana Sangh in the past, and the BJP at the present. They portray the Congress as a friend helping the “secular” communists when it is necessary.
Due to this thought, communists had many times allied with the grand old party sacrificing their own base. The united CPI emerged as the largest non-Congress party in the general elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962, and even formed the first non-Congress state government in Kerala in 1957.
However, Communist party's closeness with the Congress cost heavily, even dividing the party into two factions only to weaken its base and resulting in ceding the opposition space to the Swatantra party, Socialists and the Jana Sangh, the BJP's earlier incarnation. It was not enough, CPI didn't even hesitate to burn its own hands by supporting Indira Gandhi's infamous Emergency.
It seems the comrades in Bengal haven't learnt from the state's experiment of 2016 where the party allied with the Congress, even ignoring the concerns of its traditional Left allies.
The outcome of the experiment was worse than a nightmare for the Leftists, where the CPI(M)-led Left Front got only 32 seats behind the Congress' tally of 45. Left’s votes contributed to the good performance of the Congress, but the latter failed to transfer its votes to the Left. Even the Congress didn't cooperate whole-heartedly with the other Left allies.
Nevertheless, the comrades tend to repeat the same blunders. The party conference should rather introspect why the party couldn't cross beyond the borders of the three states - West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala.
The BJP, which had failed to get elected even a single MLA in Tripura until last year, is at present ruling the state, a former bastion of the Left. The saffron party's victory in Tripura shows that everything is possible in politics.
The CPI(M) has always been a leading voice on the issue of gender injustice and raising the issue of 33 per cent reservation of women in the country. Yet, the truth is that the women are neglected in the party structure.
The Politburo, the second highest decision-making body of the party, has only two women members out of 16. The Central Committee, the apex decision-making body, has only 14 women out of 91 members.
If the 33 per cent criteria is implemented in the party structure, the number of women members in the Politburo will stand at five, and in the Central Committee, the number will rise to at least 30.
Not only this, youth representation in the party is also very poor despite the fact that 66 per cent of the country's population is below 35.
Also, the party should change its atheist perspective in a religious-minded country like India. The party's narrative of so-called “secularism in danger” has rather added a negative image of the CPI(M) among the majority Hindus.
The most surprising fact is the “intellectual” comrades couldn't even formulate an “Indian model of socialism” till now.
That's why it would be better for the beleaguered comrades to discuss issues of strengthening the party as opportunistic alliances would never help the party to recover its lost base.
The worried comrades can take a leaf from the recent farmers' movement of Maharashtra led by party's peasant wing, Kisan Sabha, as it might offer some lessons to those engaged in brainstorming in Hyderabad.