By Arun Srivastava
It took 58 years for the CPI(M) to change its ideological compassion to induct a dalit leader Ramchandra Dome into its politburo the highest political and ideological decision making forum of the party. Besides Dome, the party also admitted four tribal leaders into the central committee.
The sudden move to ordain a dalit in the politburo has thrown up many questions; whether the party has ideologically come to accept caste as a major polemical factor in the Indian politics which has not been properly assessed by the party before and whether the party would pursue the mandal doctrine to expand in the Hindi heartland.
Though Dome does not subscribe to the view that his induction in polit bureau was the “Historic moment” for the party and asserts that there have been “many stalwart leaders” in the party from the Dalit community, he finds him at the loss to explain that why no one from theses stalwarts were not made the PB member. This has ideological implication and orientation.
At the Vishakhapatnam Congress the abysmal record in giving Dalits a place in the party’s top decision-making body politburo and even central committee came to the fore.. At the Congress Prakash Karat talked about the failure to implement reservation for Scheduled Castes and atrocities but, when asked why CPM’s politburo never had a dalit member, came up with the reply: “You ask me this question on April 19 when the new politburo and central committee is in place.” Karat said “will check the records if there has been a Dalit in the central committee”.
Even for getting into CC was not so simple and needed a proven track record. “It will be a tough exercise. We have few Dalit leaders who are doing good work,” observed a senior dalit leader. Ironically the CPI(M) has been worried of the condition of Dalits and demanded from the Union government to protect them, it never strived to bring a dalit leader in the politburo. Even Dome concedes “In our party, a person becomes a leader through some movement. It is a continuous process. In our party’s history, many stalwart leaders were from the Dalit community. Somehow they were not in the Politburo. Therefore, my induction into the Politburo is not a historic moment”.
After the session got over he said “There are hundreds of comrades from the socially backward and marginalised sections in the party’s central committee. Dalits, Adivasis and the working class form the party’s foundation. The communist parties choose their leadership by way of a natural process and therefore, my inclusion in the Politburo is not an outstanding event. But it for sure sends across a message”.
Nevertheless the CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury revealed that the party could not appoint a Dalit member to its top office due to ‘historical reasons’. The fact of the matter is the CPI(M), controlled and dominated by upper caste leaders had avoided selecting a dalit as the politburo member. CPI(M) accuses the Congress of being a reactionary and bourgeoise party, but even this party accommodates the Dalits in the highest decision making bodies. Providing space to the Dalits has made it the party of poor. In the recent years, the BJP has done a big outreach to dalits and this process has been stepped up.
Recently in an interview to a Kerala daily, Sitaram Yechury has put the blame on the ‘Hindu social order’ for its failure in admitting Dalits to the politburo. He revealed that the party could not appoint a Dalit member to its top office due to ‘historical reasons’. His observation in fact puts a critical question on the political character of the party, which claims to be Marxist. His statement makes it clear that the leadership has failed to curb the upper caste hegemony prevalent in the party. Significantly he had said “Our society has always been very exploitative in nature. Only upper castes had the right to access knowledge and education. Naturally, they get acquainted with new ideas,”
Dome has been an active member of the party for long. During the Emergency in mid 1970s, Dome became active in student politics and joined the Left Front’s students’ wing. In 1989, five years after he completed MBBS, he entered Parliament after winning from the Birbhum Lok Sabha constituency. He continued as an MP till 2014, winning in six consecutive Lok Sabha elections.
Notwithstanding Sitaram Yechury trying to evolve a mechanism for the resurrection of the party, the major challenge before it is to arresting the slide outside Kerala. Bringing in Dome into politburo would help it to work out allies and alliances even based on the caste politics. None will dare to challenge the party for entering into alliance with the casteist parties. In this backdrop, Sitaram Yechury’s call for “all left, secular and democratic forces to come together in order to isolate and defeat the BJP” is quite significant and important and should be taken seriously.
Yechury outlined the party line, saying that, “in order to defeat the BJP, the broadest possible front of all secular forces must be forged against Hindutva communalism”. However, this may not get wide support from the powerful Kerala unit, which perceives the Congress as the main adversary. It is a known fact that the CPI(M) and the Congress in Kerala have antagonistic relations. And in 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the CPI(M) will try its best to get back seats from the Congress fold. Yechury has a standing among the opposition parties who are trying to form a joint front against the BJP. The third term general secretary of the CPI(M) has to show ingenuity and dexterity in working for a united opposition including the Congress while abiding by the lines of the political resolution of the 23rd Congress of the Party. (IPA Service)