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Bengal CPM too short of cash, party congress goes to Andhra

Prakash Karat

New Delhi, Aug. 10: Which CPM unit, Bengal’s or Andhra’s, has more manpower and money? The surprise answer came from the comrades themselves today.

Next year’s CPM party congress will be held in Visakhapatnam because Calcutta, the favoured choice, opted out citing inability to organise such a big event owing to a lack of cash and cadres, party sources said.

A central committee member said the party congress, held every three years to finalise the ideological and tactical lines, is a huge logistical exercise because some 700 to 800 delegates come from across the country.

“There was a proposal to host the event in Calcutta but, after intense discussions, the party felt it could be risky,” he told The Telegraph at the end of a three-day central committee meeting today.

“Our cadres in Bengal are under attack from Trinamul on all fronts. The Bengal unit is also facing a financial crisis.”

Although the party pools its resources from across state units for the event, the host state is primarily responsible for taking care of the arrangements.

Next April’s party congress will be particularly significant because it will elect a new general secretary to replace Prakash Karat, the impending change of guard having already kicked off a power struggle.

There’s also a growing demand from the rank and file for a reinvention of the party’s ideological and tactical lines to stay relevant in these changed times.

Calcutta was the original choice not just for its standing as a state capital the comrades had ruled uninterrupted for 34 years, but also because of expectations that hosting such a prestigious meeting would rejuvenate the demoralised state unit.

But the Bengal leaders cited one reason after another to reject the proposal, including the likely civic elections in Calcutta in April and May.

“Who knows, Mamata Banerjee might well get the election dates to coincide with our party congress; that would land us in the soup,” a party leader said.

Nor was the Andhra Pradesh CPM very keen but had the congress thrust on it since no other eligible state unit was ready to play host, either, the central committee member said.

“Each state unit cited one or more problems,” he said, ruing that the party was in tatters everywhere. Since the Andhra unit is relatively well placed financially, its excuses were overruled.

The Kerala CPM too is affluent but was not considered because the last congress was held in Kozhikode. Tripura, the only state where the party is in power, presented a key logistical problem: every one of the delegates would have had to be flown to Agartala, which is not connected by long-distance trains.

“It would have been a huge drain on the party’s resources,” a CPM leader said.

Out of power in Kerala and Bengal and clinging on to little Tripura, the Marxists had registered a low in the summer general election, winning just nine seats.

The meeting today decided to undertake a month’s campaign in November to popularise the party’s ideology and programme in its 50th year.