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Shadow of Bengal looms large over CPM in Kerala

This is the first time after 1946 that the communists have no representation in the Bengal Assembly the reasons for which are both political and organisational
Representational picture

Santosh Kumar   |   New Delhi   |   Published 25.10.21, 01:15 AM

As the CPM prepares for its 23rd all-India Congress, the shadow of Bengal looms large over the party in Kerala.

In its determination not to repeat the mistakes of the party during its over three-decade rule in Bengal, the CPM in Kerala has gone to such extremes that some political observers wonder whether the party has been afflicted by some sort of Bengal phobia.


These concerns of the Kerala CPM are noted in a party circular issued among its cadre for discussion at the block, area and local levels in the run-up to the CPM state party conference this year. This will be followed by the party’s 23rd all-India Congress to be held in Kannur sometime next year.

This is the first time after 1946 that the communists have no representation in the Bengal Assembly. The reasons for this setback are both political and organisational. While the party grew organisationally in the first two decades, ideologically the party became bankrupt.

The Kerala document points out that local landlords and lumpen elements found precedence over genuine party workers at the grassroots level. Since 2008, there has been steady erosion in the party’s mass base mainly because of the leadership’s alienation from people. This has resulted in a fall in its general social acceptance.

The party leadership failed to read the socio-political changes taking place in Bengal, especially in the rural belt, where the party once had strong roots. The industrial policy imposed by the government in the villages of Nandigram and elsewhere alienated the poor.

The leadership was partially blinded by three decades of power. The only way to overcome these pitfalls is to stand by the people and constantly engage them in the decision-making process.

After the recent Assembly elections, the Kerala unit has taken a number of corrective measures effecting changes in its rank and file.

For a party, which has been voted back to power with a larger majority some of these measures may appear harsh.

In the light of the assessment of election results, disciplinary action has been initiated against no less than a dozen district committee members and even state committee members; notable among them is a former minister and a senior leader from Alappuzha. Even leaders from winning constituencies have been penalised for dereliction of duty.

Once again it is the lessons learnt from Bengal that prompted the Kerala CPM to deny tickets to two-time MLAs. The idea was to discourage party leaders from turning into local satraps and in the process becoming larger than the party. Bengal had witnessed quite a number of them even during the time of the late Jyoti Basu.

The Kerala CPM had all along opposed the Bengal comrades’ decision to go in for any sort of tie-up with the Congress there. Though the decision was backed by a section of the central leadership led by party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Kerala CPM had always maintained that Congress remains its No. 1 enemy in the state.

Even while asking their Bengal counterparts to go in for introspection with regard to their tie-up with the Congress, the Kerala comrades have welcomed senior Congress leaders into the party, something unheard of in the past.

By giving party membership to two long standing Congressmen despite resentment in its own ranks, the CPM recently successfully thwarted the BJP’s moves to entice disgruntled Congress members.

The divide between the Kerala and Bengal CPM has only widened on the issue of Congress. Another term for Sitaram Yechury as party general secretary will depend much on how the party resolves the Congress issue. Kerala is not going to back Yechury if he toes the Bengal line. That is for certain.

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