From P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The first step towards self-improvement is a candid admission of one’s mistakes. If the deliberations at the ongoing 20th party congress of the CPI-M at Kozhikode in Kerala are any indication, the party seems to have realized this basic rule.
In fact, it is ‘confession time’ for the top CPI(M) leaders at the 20th party congress. The mood and the body language of the top leaders is grim matching the magnitude of the challenges the party is facing. This is in marked contrast with the robust sense of confidence and optimism that permeated the 19th party congress held at Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu in 2008. The party was on an upswing then. It was in a position to dictate terms to the first UPA Government in power at the Centre. That situation is no longer there now. The party has lost power in two of its three strongholds,West Bengal and Kerala and finds itself having to make a sustained effort to rebuild it.
No wonder, the party leaders are in a confessional frame of mind. It all began at a meeting on the eve of the party congress which began on April 4. That meeting saw Politburo member S Ramachanran Pillai candidly admitting that factionalism/sectarianism continues to be the bane of the party unit in Kerala. This goes against the official stance of the party articulated by none other than party general secretary Prakash Karat himself that sectarianism in the Kerala unit had become a thing of the past. Pillai admitted that it was not the case and the issue is causing serious concern to the party.
Even the political-organisational report, presented on the inaugural day of the party congress is in a confessional mode. For the first time, the report admits that the CPI(M) has also been infected by the virus hitherto afflicting only the bourgeoisie parties: sexual misconduct of the cadres. A glaring case is that of former Kannur district party secretary P Sasi, who was expelled only after the central committee (CC) asked the Kerala state committee to do so. It was a major lapse which cost the Kerala CPI(M) a few seats in Kannur district in the assembly elections held in May 2011. Had the state committee expelled Sasi before the assembly polls, the LDF would have managed to retain power.
The political-organisational report also admits that some party leaders had misused the principle of democratic centralism to further their own agenda. For instance, it says one of the factors that caused the party’s defeat in West Bengal was the arrogance of the state leaders and their personal agenda. But a glaring omission has been a few lapses by the state leadership in Kerala While the district conferences were on in the state in the run-up to the state conference, the top party leaders had declared that contests to elect the office-bearers would not be allowed as such contests aggravated sectarianism. This principle was strictly adhered to in districts like Kasargod and others. But in Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam, both VS strongholds, when the top leadership felt that a contest could result in victory for their own candidates and defeat of the VS supporters, a contest was allowed! The report does not blame the leadership for this serious lapse. The result was that, instead of ending sectarianism such acts only helped to aggravate it.
The report as well as general secretary Prakash Karat’s inaugural address also admit the decline in the quality of the party members because of faulty membership recruitment, increase in corruption, sexual promiscuity and alcoholism and failure to strengthen the party.
In his speech, Karat stressed the need to build a left and democratic alternative to replace the NDA and the UPA. The left alone can provide such an alternative, asserted Karat.
However, he admitted the first task to achieve this objective was to strengthen the CPI(M) itself. The party has made such confessions in the past too. But it has failed to take concrete follow-up action. In fact the next three days of the party congress are likely to witness a lively debate on the steps needed to rebuild and strengthen the party not only in strongholds like West Bengal and Kerala but also in the north, with special focus on Uttar Pradesh.
Kerala is also keenly watching whether VS would return to the Politburo. Karat has avoided an answer to the question, saying it would be available at the end of the party congress. The fact, however, is that VS himself has not helped his case with his recent statements. For instance, Achuthanandan has stated that there won’t be any change in his position in respect of the Lavalin case involving state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. The leaders belonging to the official faction of the Kerala unit will oppose the VS return to the PB when the matter comes up for discussion at the congress. But the reception VS got when he arrived to participate in the congress has proved, once again, that he continues to be the most popular leader in the state.
A significant feature of the inaugural day was the speech made by former CPI general secretary A B Bardhan who said the Left should woo the regional parties to broaden the left and democratic movement. Bardhan made another significant observation: that while the CPI(M) should grow in strength , it should allow the CPI also to grow. This was, necessary to strengthen the left and democratic front which alone can provide a viable and credible alternative to both the UPA and the NDA. (IPA)