Bengaluru: From constructing houses for the poor to coaching young people on how to crack government exams, Kerala’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM should reach out to the masses in a big way, suggested an internal review report, presented and discussed at the four-day CPM state conference that concluded on Sunday.
The report, according to two leaders who spoke to Mint on the condition of anonymity, said the party’s core voter base in Kerala, the poor, feel alienated. It also came down on the party for showing affinity towards “bourgeoisie thinking", leaders flaunting affluent lifestyle and nurturing unhealthy personal ambitions for parliamentary positions, among other things, and called for saving the party from these ills.
Of Kerala’s over 30 million population, CPM has 463,472 members, and poor farmers represent only 6.26% of the total membership, said the report.
Also, about half of the members have police cases against them, said the report.
However, the party has lost fewer members. While it lost 8.19% of its members in 2014, the year before the previous state conference in 2015, it lost 7% members in 2017, totalling about 1.12 lakh members. It is unclear how many members were added during the same period, but about 50,000 members were added in the three-four months leading up to the conference.
Maximum new members, about 90%, are people born after the 1990s, reflecting the hope the new generation pins on this party, said Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who became CPM’s state secretary for the second consecutive time, in a televised press meet on Sunday.
He said people were pinning hopes on CPM the same way they did when the party formed the first government in Kerala in 1957, adding that, unlike previous years, the organisation had become more united to execute such hopes now.
Factional fights riddled the party since the 90s and this meet marks an end to that history, he said, indirectly pointing to the firm grip Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and himself have on the CPM, while former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan, with whom they have frosty ties, is now completely sidelined.
However, even if it is not publicly discussed, internally the party is riddled with differences, on topics such as the infamous killing of political opponents in Kannur district. “Why these killings Krishna," asked a member from Kollam district to the leadership, during one of the discussions on the report, satirically quoting Indian epic Mahabharata where the same question was asked by Gandhari after the Kurukshetra killings, said on the two CPM leaders cited earlier.
“They should be discussing Bharat and not Mahabharat," said Kerala University political science department head and political analyst J. Prabhash, over the phone.
“One clear message that has come out from the state conference is that CPM has to go a long way, into say political imagination and as an electoral force," Prabhash said. “It has to consolidate its position in its traditional stronghold and also has to look beyond that. For instance, it has to accommodate the concerns of middle-class sensibility, if it is thinking about a larger role," he added.
Prabhash said he doubted if the CPM is fully aware of its need to forge an alliance with forces that are against the BJP, which currently rules most Indian states alone or with alliances, and is expected to come up as a major opposition force in Kerala in the coming years.
The same question was put to debate by several members within the meet, including by CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who said CPM is not Communist Party of Kerala, Manorama News reported on Sunday. Yechury’s proposal to have tactical alliance with all non-BJP forces, including Congress, was rejected within the CPM recently, partly due to opposition from the Kerala unit where Congress is the main opposition. However, Balakrishnan, while speaking to reporters on Sunday, denied Yechury said so in the internal meet.