Monday, 30th October 2017

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Left behind

All dressed up and nowhere to go. That sums up pretty well the massive rally of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the Brigade Parade Ground. 

  • Published 11.03.15

All dressed up and nowhere to go. That sums up pretty well the massive rally of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the Brigade Parade Ground. Calcutta has seen and heard all this before - the party managing to mobilize large numbers of supporters and the leaders mouthing the tired, old rhetoric. The difference is that the party, which ruled West Bengal for 34 years, is now out of power. It is not unreasonable to expect that the loss of power would prompt any party to change its ways. Communists everywhere are slow learners, but the CPI(M) seems to have lost the power and the will to learn anything. It continues to be a prisoner of its own prejudices, both political and economic. The comrades in China, Cuba and erstwhile socialist countries may be embracing capitalism and other new ideas with unconcealed zeal. But Indian communists remain the rare species that continues to sing the praise of the State sector and to see 'imperialist' conspiracies in India's new economic regime. No wonder, then, that the CPI(M) has been losing election after election in Bengal ever since Mamata Banerjee ousted it from power. There is growing disenchantment among large sections of the people with Ms Banerjee's rule. The Bharatiya Janata Party, an insignificant political force in the state until a year ago, has made rapid progress in projecting itself as an alternative to the ruling Trinamul Congress. The big turnout at the CPI(M)'s rally can barely hide its existentialist crisis.

The crisis is largely of the party's own making. It refuses to accept the realities of a fast-changing world and of India's place in it. Everything in the new regime revolves around strategies to achieve and maintain a high level of economic growth. For both the new rulers of the country and the people at large, aspirations are reaching new levels. If the CPI(M) is out of tune with all this, it is because the party can neither change itself nor make sense of the changes the people are aspiring for. It is often argued that things can change for the party if a new leadership takes over. There is some merit in the argument; fresh faces at the top could help revitalize the party. But fresh ideas are what the party needs most in order to revive itself and stay relevant in a changing India. Such ideas can only come from real challengers who can bombard the headquarters. But there are no signs of this happening anytime soon.