From P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Well begun is half done. So goes the saying. By the same logic, badly begun is half undone. It is to the second category that two steps taken by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at its recently-concluded 20th party congress in Kozhikode, Kerala belong.
Only a CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) can undo the enormous damage inflicted on the country and its people by both the United Progressive Alliance(UPA) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), thundered CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat at the concluding session of the party congress. Laudable sentiment indeed. But the CPI(M) has to strengthen itself first before this goal can be achieved, admitted Karat. No quarrel on that either.
But the party leadership has taken a patently wrong step in its two strongholds,West Bengal and Kerala. While it retained in the Politburo Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, whose wrong policies were primarily responsible for the party’s stunning defeat in West Bengal, it refused to reinstate to the PB Kerala’s leader of the opposition V S Achuthanandan, whose spirited campaign all but put the party back in power in the state. Obviously the central leadership yielded to the pressure of PB members from both the states instead of resisting it. Buddhadeb should have been dropped from the PB and VS brought back to it.
This was a singularly inept move which could cost the party dear in both the states. The principle of democratic centralism was thrown to the four winds and that of democratic federalism implemented. Needless to say, such caving in to the pressure of state units does not speak well of the party’s leadership which failed to assert itself and displayed a lamentable lack of courage to take unpleasant but right decisions in the interest of the party. In the case of VS, a number of PB members wanted him to be back in the party’s highest policy-making body, but did not put their foot down in the teeth of opposition from Achuthanandan’s detractors.
The return of VS to the PB in the face of such fierce objections from the state party leaders implacably opposed to him would have ramped up factionalism in the Kerala unit, the top party leaders seemed to fear. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, by excluding VS, the most popular CPI(M) leader in the state, from the PB, the central leadership has hurt the sentiments and sensibilities of a substantial section of the party’s rank and file, who adore Achuthanandan.
Just one instance is enough to prove VS’s enduring popularity, despite desperate attempts to undermine it by the official wing of the Kerala (CPI(M). The very mention of VS’s name by both Karat and Yechuri at the public meeting climaxing the massive rally, evoked thunderous applause from the 5-lakh strong gathering. What was even more noteworthy was the spontaneous applause the red volunteers whose job was to enforce discipline broke into, at the mention of Achuthanandan’s name.
You don’t strengthen a party by totally marginalising a powerful section of its activists. Factionalism in the Kerala CPI(M) is a fact of life. If it has persisted in spite of various attempts to end it, a fair portion of the blame must be laid at the doors of the top Kerala leadership who themselves encouraged factionalism when it suited them. True leadership demands that it takes along all factions and canalise the collective strength and energy into achieving the cherished objective. Politics of exclusion and revenge is a luxury a party that wants to lead a credible alternative to the UPA and the NDA cannot afford to have. The sooner the top CPI(M) leadership realizes this, the better.
Be that as it may, mere renunciation of the politics of exclusion and revenge is not enough. Inclusive politics must replace it so that the party realizes its full potential and bends all its energies to the task of firming itself up. The leadership of the Kerala CPI(M) needs to reach out to sections alienated by the politics of revenge. In other words, it is time to apply the healing touch. A party at peace with itself alone can accomplish the arduous task of boosting its strength. (IPA)