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CPM revival bid from riot belt

- Party sees hope in helping displaced victims build new homes
Riot-affected villagers build homes at Ekta Nagar colony. Pictures by Ramakant Kushwaha

Jaula (Muzaffarnagar), Aug. 24: The CPM hit the heartland today in its drive to “reinvent” itself, inaugurating a resettlement colony for the riot-affected built with party assistance amid a reminder of the challenges from a local member who declared “Marxism is a dying breed”.

Inaugurating Ekta Nagar, the colony in this village that was an oasis of calm during last year’s flare-up, CPM leaders termed the party the only “secular and democratic alternative” to the Narendra Modi government.

“We have to reach out to people to make them understand that the CPM is the only alternative to the divisive and anti-people politics of the BJP and the Congress,” politburo member M.A. Baby said at the inauguration where he was present along with party colleagues Subhashini Ali and M.B. Rajesh, the MP from Kerala’s Palakkad.

The party had provided financial help to 54 riot-hit families to build the homes, raising Rs 70 lakh for the plan. Of this, the Kerala unit contributed Rs 55 lakh and the Bengal unit Rs 10 lakh. The rest came from other states.

Baby said the party had been trying to secure a foothold in northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.

Subhashini Ali and CPM politburo member MA Baby at the inauguration of the Ekta Nagar colony

But today, the event offered a reality check: only 40 CPM members from western Uttar Pradesh, of which Muzaffarnagar is a part, attended the programme at a school in this village 26km from Muzaffarnagar town.

Most of them were above 60. Also, they were among only 70 members the party has in two adjoining districts, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli.

“Most party members here are above 60. The party and its ideology are becoming a dying breed,” said Rajender Singh. The 73-year-old former army officer is the district convener of the Kisan Sabha Committee, a body representing local farmers, mostly cane-growers.

“Soon after retirement, I joined the party in the 1980s after reading a lot of Marxist literature,” said Rajender Singh, adding he was drawn to the ideology by some of his army colleagues from Bengal.

He said the party had failed to attract youths and blamed the leadership for the debacle in the Lok Sabha election and its shrinking base among the poor people and the middle class.

“We need to reinvent ourselves. The main problem is that we have stopped working for the interests of the common people,” Rajender Singh said.

The sentiment was echoed by Shakti Singh, who was with the RSS for 10 years before joining the CPM in the 1980s. “I left the RSS because of its communal agenda and chose Marxism. But now I think we (the CPM) have deviated from our traditional support base — the workers, peasants and agricultural labourers.”

The 68-year-old said there was “total disconnect” between the Left and sections of the middle class and youths. “What’s more, the disconnect has been most pronounced in case of youths who have benefited from (economic) reforms in terms of better opportunities, jobs and income.”

Shyamvi Rathi, the CPM’s Muzaffarnagar secretary, also rued the failure to draw youths to the party. “We need a real introspection,” he said, pointing to the dwindling number of party members in the district.

Shakti Singh said the Left ideology seemed to have lost its appeal. “There is a need for a relook at the party’s policies, or else we will lose our relevance.”

Baby, the politburo member who hails from Kerala, hoped initiatives like the aid for the resettlement colony would send a strong message among the people and help the CPM rebuild its base.

“Through this kind of work, we want to win the hearts of people. They will realise that one party is spreading hatred while another is spreading brotherhood.”

Baby said he and the others would soon raise with the central leadership the concerns articulated by local members today and other factors behind the party’s failure.

“We will raise all these issues at our party congress and deliberate on the steps needed to be taken to revive the morale of the Left cadre,” Baby said. The congress — held every three years to finalise the ideological and tactical lines — is scheduled to be held in Visakhapatnam in April next year.