The Telegraph
Sunday , May 18 , 2014
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Stasis, thy name is CPM

Calcutta, May 17: Age cannot enlighten her, nor crisis rock her infinite sameness.

The CPM is caught in a stasis so profound that even an electoral rout that threatens to consume its existence in a state it has ruled for 34 years has failed to shake up the old guard.

The party’s support base has eroded with successive elections; its ideology no longer seems to appeal to the youth; and there have been cries for changes at the top. But the leadership seems to be in denial.

On a day the CPM won only two Lok Sabha seats in Bengal and just 12 countrywide, party general secretary Prakash Karat chose to comment on the Congress debacle. If some in the party were expecting the top leaders to own responsibility, it didn’t happen.

“There has been an anti-Congress wave, which has routed the Congress and the UPA,” Karat said.

CPM state secretary Biman Bose made it clear that a change in leadership was not imminent.

“This is not the case of any individual. In our party, there is collective responsibility and collective decision-making,” he said at Alimuddin Street yesterday when asked if he would take responsibility for the CPM’s worst-ever Lok Sabha poll performance in Bengal.

The party has convened a meeting on June 2 to “discuss” the Lok Sabha poll results. All district units have been asked to send reports on what they felt were the reasons behind the decimation.

When the winds of change started buffeting the Left fortress in 2009 and the combine’s Lok Sabha tally fell to 15 from 35, the CPM and its partners had behaved in a similar fashion.

The routine meetings and reports continued after the rout in the 2011 Assembly polls. There were calls for a “rectification drive” but the approach has proved ineffective.

The prescription that top leaders came up with after rounds of deliberations in Delhi and Calcutta was that the comrades needed to focus on “nibir jana sanjog (intense mass connect)”. A CPM source said similar advice could be given this time too.

“Our party is so process-driven and structured that we are tied up in knots. Change will not take place in our party. We’ll be slowly pushed towards extinction unless there’s a miracle,” he said.

The source said the party’s approach had prevented it from stanching the haemorrhage and making a turnaround. Organisational deficiencies have been identified as the primary reason for the slide in support, and the blame has mostly been laid at the district leaderships’ door, causing discontent and intra-party squabbles.

Some district leaders said the party, whose leaders and policies have not changed since the 1970s, was caught in a time warp.

“The party’s leaders, both at the central and state levels, are obsessed with issues that hardly affect the lives of the common people. There’s a disconnect,” a CPM state committee member said.

The CPM’s patent slogan against “US imperialism” has drawn criticism from Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, too.

The party’s objections to “US imperialism” have failed to enthuse the youth, a large section of which aspires to go to America for higher studies and jobs and who face far more tangible problems back home.

“Such dated ideals are alienating us further from the people. We are losing touch with the masses. The youth is moving away from us,” a CPM leader said.

The party source said youngsters no longer attended CPM rallies. The handful that join the party are forced to parrot the veterans’ line.

“All in the name of democratic centralism,” a CPM leader said, his voice dripping sarcasm while speaking on the party’s structure.

Although the CPM has been drawing attention to the Trinamul government’s failure to bring industry to Bengal, it has not been able to spell out plans to assuage the youth’s concern at the lack of jobs the way Narendra Modi did at his rallies.

“Modi specifically appealed to people in the 18-28 age bracket to back the BJP, saying that only a government by the party could create jobs for them. This attracted the youths,” the CPM state committee member said.

Beaten to death

A CPM supporter was beaten to death allegedly by Trinamul activists participating in a victory rally in a Burdwan village last night.