New Delhi: A section of leaders of the core group of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, will mount a serious challenge to the party leadership and press for a special meeting to “correct the course”, whereby the party had decided to back the formation of a “Third Front” coalition at the Centre.
These leaders, who did not want to be identified, are part of the central committee of the CPM, which is meeting in the Capital over the weekend. If the leaders are able to generate more support, they will seek the convening of a special plenum, a rare meeting of the top leadership in between the triennial party congress meets.
The crucial politburo meeting that began on Friday and the two-day meeting of the central committee, the party’s apex decision-making body, are expected to introspect on the party’s stance on various issues in the wake of the humiliating debacle it faced in the Lok Sabha election.
According to the CPM constitution, the central committee “may when it deems necessary convene an extended session of the Central Committee, or Plenum or Conference. The Central Committee shall decide the basis of attendance and method of election of delegates for such bodies”.
The party had convened its last special plenum in 2000 in Thiruvananthapuram to review its changed stance in the wake of the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a national political force, while in 1978 the party plenum in Salkia in West Bengal finalized strategies to expand the CPM in Hindi-speaking states.
According to senior CPM leaders, who are either part of the politburo or the central committee, the state committee reports that have been prepared after deliberations at the states level have sought a “correction of the party line”.
The CPM’s strength has come down from a record high of 43 seats to 16 in the current Lok Sabha and it has lost elections in 25 parliamentary seats in its bastion states of Kerala and West Bengal.
“The main point of discussions in the central committee will be an assessment of the party’s political position during the run-up to the election, especially because many state units have raised questions over the CPM’s attempts to form a Third Front government,” said a senior party leader, who requested anonymity.
The section of leaders who believe the CPM should not have tried to form an alternative government at the last minute feel the central leadership has violated the mandate it had been given at the last party congress in 2008. “The mandate for the party was to form a third alternative. However, the public perception was that the CPM leadership was trying to form a Third Front government,” admitted another senior leader. The political resolution passed at the April 2008 party congress says: “The party had spelt out its approach to the forging of the third alternative at the 18th congress. That approach still remains valid. It must be based on a platform of policies for which the Left, democratic and secular forces can work together... It cannot be a mere electoral alliance to meet current exigencies.”
An editorial in the party mouthpiece People’s Democracy in May had also criticised the move, saying “such an alternative cannot, obviously, be a cut and paste arrangement on the eve of elections. This can only emerge through sustained popular struggles. There are no short cuts”.
At least two CPM leaders admitted that a large section of party leaders, especially those from West Bengal, hold party secretary Prakash Karat responsible for the “wrong stand” the party had to take ahead of the elections.
“It was not his personal decision. The party had to take such steps to save itself from being isolated,” a politburo member explained.
V. Krishna Ananth, Chennai-based columnist and political analyst, pointed out that Karat’s moves were endorsed by the central committee at every step and Karat cannot be blamed for it. “The central committee is as much responsible as Karat in terms of the tactical line the party took vis-a-vis the electoral alliances and the formation of the Third Front,” he said, adding: “The party congress’ mandate was in the context of electoral alternative. Karat’s moves were incidental to that. The CPM’s debacle is due to its alienation from its own cadre in West Bengal and Kerala.”
After withdrawing support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, government in July protesting against its decision to go ahead with the India-US civil nuclear deal, the CPM moved to strike an electoral understanding with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Later, it joined hands with All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu, Telugu Desam Party and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) in Andhra Pradesh and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD-S, in Karnataka. While TRS joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, the JD-S and the BSP extended support to the UPA after the elections.
Karat’s critics point out that the general secretary’s initiative to approach BSP chief Mayawati and AIADMK leader J. Jayalalitha to discuss an electoral understanding have “misled” the party cadres as well as its supporters. “The CPM looked like a party that can go to any extent to come to power,” a central committee member said, pointing out that the CPM had once publicly opposed any electoral understanding with the AIADMK.
At the state committee meeting in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, state leaders are believed to have questioned the CPM’s decision to withdraw support over the nuclear deal and the political developments thereafter. “What have we gained? The party could not stop the nuclear deal. Nor could we pull the government down then (the UPA government managed the support of Samajwadi Party to prove its majority in 22 July trust vote). As a party, we could not even explain to the cadre why the deal should not have been signed,” another politburo member said on condition of anonymity.