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Repeated blunders by cpi(m)

Repeated blunders by cpi(m)

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leadership is in the habit of committing major political blunders in the month of July. The earlier historic blunders took place at the central committee meetings in 1996 when they rejected Jyoti Basu as Prime Minister and in 2008, when the CC decided to withdraw from the UPA Government of Dr Manmohan Singh on the issue of the India-US nuclear deal.

True to its tradition, at the latest central committee meeting of the Party the CC rejected the proposal of the West Bengal state committee to propose the party general secretary Sitaram Yechury for a third term in the Rajya Sabha. The argument which the Kerala Chief Minister P. Vijayan gave from the dominant leadership is that the Party Constitution does not allow any Rajya Sabha member more than two terms and that Yechury should not seek election on the basis of support from the Congress Party.
Though there is nothing wrong in this position, now we see an extraordinary political situation when all opposition parties are making efforts in the Parliament to put up a united front against the present government. It is an uneven fight and that demands expertise and solid experience to navigate the efforts towards building up a strong campaign based on the urgent issues facing the people. Yechury is the only CPI(M) leader who has that capacity in the Rajya Sabha and despite the dwindling strength of the CPI(M), he acquired the position of senior-most leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha as also the Parliament as a whole. With Yechury out of the Rajya Sabha next month, the Left as a group will be weaker with veteran D. Raja of the CPI remaining as the sole pro-active member of the Left Rajya Sabha brigade. Yechury's departure from Rajya Sabha is a political loss of the CPI(M) also in terms of his reach and influence. There is no CPI(M) member in Rajya Sabha left now who can fill Yechury's gap.
Taking a long term political perspective, the dominant CPI(M) leadership is taking a myopic view of the nature of the challenges that the country is facing now due to the rapid expansion of the BJP's power and influence. With Nitish Kumar leaving the grand alliance and joining with the BJP in Bihar, the opposition has been further cornered and this needs immediate adoption of a broad approach by the Left in working with all the anti- BJP forces including the Congress. The Congress is the leading anti-BJP party and despite its earlier neo-liberal policies, a broad unity has to be built with the Congress on the issues of fighting communalism, atrocities against the dalits and for mitigating the distress of the farmers. The Left has to initiate the dialogue for a joint campaign giving up its anti-Congressism and taking into account the severity of the present political challenge.
The CPI(M) leadership has not been able to assert itself aggressively in the recent months due to the wide divergence of views. Sitaram has been the general secretary of the Party for the last two years since the last Party Congress in 2015 but he has never been given free hand in working for understanding with secular forces including the Congress. That is why his steps have been half-baked and there is a sort of paralysis in the functioning of the CPI(M) at this critical period. The next Party Congress is at Hyderabad in April 2018 and till then this dichotomy will continue thereby devaluing the Left role in the fight against the BJP.
As per the 2015 Party Congress resolution, the CPI(M) has to keep an equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress. The present CPI(M) general secretary has limited options to adapt the party policies in the changed political reality since this is a rigid regimented party and he is a minority in both politburo and the central committee. Sitaram has to wait until the next April Party Congress and there is no guarantee if the policies will be adjusted to suit the needs of the times for Sitaram to have his way.
At the last meeting of the opposition parties on July 11, the issue of the joint campaign was discussed. Only through such massive campaigns both inside the Parliament and outside in different states, can the ground be prepared to give a political challenge to the BJP in the next round of elections. The CPI(M) CC in its communiqué has very casually mentioned at the end that the Party must take initiative at all levels to mobilise all secular and democratic forces and conduct anti-communal programmes all over the country during the month of September. This part should have been elaborated further since only through such widespread campaigns along with other anti-BJP parties, can the right environment be created for combating the BJP challenge.
In a wide ranging interview in The Wire on July 27, eminent Marxist economist Dr Prabhat Patnaik mentions that the Left has to take the initiative in bringing everybody into an alliance in which there is some agreed agenda. Right now, there can be a freeze on the neoliberal reforms which have already taken place. A common minimum agenda as was drawn up before the 1996 Deve Gowda government and 2004 Manmohan Singh government can be worked out in cooperation with the Congress and other anti-BJP forces and that can be the pivot for a massive campaign. The CPI national executive has specifically mentioned the need for united action of the anti-BJP secular forces since the Left alone cannot meet this threat. The CPI(M) is yet to take such an unequivocal position.
Modi-Shah duo will ensure that the opposition unity efforts do not succeed and the party will encourage the disgruntled sections of the Congress to leave the Party for greener pastures. Only a programme based opposition with the participation of the Congress, Left and other secular forces, will be in a position to fight that. There is no other alternative.
(The author is Editor-in-Chief of IPA. The views expressed are strictly personal.)

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