New Delhi: The beleaguered Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, will hold a rare meeting of its senior leaders in August to prepare for next year’s assembly elections in its bastion states of West Bengal and Kerala.
This will only be the fourth time since its creation in 1964 that India’s leading Left party will hold a “plenum”, or a meeting of the extended central committee—the party’s apex decision-making body.
Party leaders will first meet on 25-26 March to discuss the agenda of the plenum. They will likely meet again in late April to finalize the dates, location and participants for the plenum.
Earlier plenums were held in 1969, 1978 and 2000.
“The extended central committee will discuss the newly emerged political scenario and the challenges the party is facing ahead of the assembly elections,” said S. Ramachandran Pillai, a senior leader of the CPM, which has ruled West Bengal for three decades continuously and Kerala intermittently as the leading partner of Leftist coalitions.
The CPM had earlier decided to defer a triennial party congress, due in 2011, until after elections in West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, another state where it has a strong presence.
The plenum comes at a critical juncture for the CPM. The party fared poorly in the general election in 2009, its tally in the Lower House of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, dropping to 16 seats from 43 in 2004. Its performance was below par in subsequent bypolls and civic polls as well.
In an interview to the Leftist magazine New Left Review, eminent British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm had claimed that CPM general secretary Prakash Karat had told him the party was besieged in West Bengal, and expected to do badly in the assembly polls. Karat dissociated himself from the remarks, saying those were the historian’s analysis.
More recently, the party claims its resistance to the economic policies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Central government—which is led by the Congress and includes the Trinamool Congress (TMC), its main rivals in West Bengal—has given it a fresh lease of life.
The CPM, as well as other parliamentary opposition parties, have been attacking the UPA on issues such as price rise and the budgetary proposal to hike fuel and fertilizer prices.
The TMC, led by railway minister Mamata Banerjee, had also initially protested the increase in prices, but later toned down her rhetoric.
“Recent developments and especially the (opposition to the) Union Budget as well as Mamata’s response to it have given us new energy. We will now focus on these and carry out sustained campaigns against both the TMC and the Congress,” another senior CPM leader from West Bengal said on condition of anonymity.
“We now have more hope and our electoral situation in West Bengal is looking up. Things are surely improving for us now,” he added.