A diminishing cadre strength and the simultaneous rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the erstwhile bastions of the Left have pushed the CPM to call for a plenum in December, a party source told The Sunday Guardian.
Although officially the party maintains that the BJP’s good show in West Bengal in the 2014 general elections was a spillover of the all-India Narendra Modi phenomenon, CPM is increasingly feeling threatened by the BJP, and not just West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has pushed the Left to the margins, but also in Tripura and Kerala.
CPM leader in the Lok Sabha, P. Karunakaran said that the party is also worried about being unable to capitalise on the downfall of the Congress, as the space conceded by the latter is being taken over by BJP at the Centre and regional parties in the states, pushing the CPM towards irrelevance nationally.
“The overall situation that we see is that there should be a thorough discussion with regard to why we are not in a position to grow in the states and why the party membership is dropping in many of our local organisations,” Karunakaran said.
He added that the party membership has become “confined to only West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura”, alluding to the fact that the CPM was thoroughly unsuccessful in galvanising people to its fold at a time when mounting scams in the UPA regime presented an opportunity to opposition parties to assert themselves.
Earlier, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury had hinted that the party has not been able to adapt to changing times. “The party has decided to look at the tasks before us in terms of the organisational changes and meeting the changing aspirations of the people,” Yechury told the press, indicating that the December plenum, the first one since the plenum in Salkia in West Bengal in 1978, will be all about brainstorming a future road map. The CPM lost its bastion West Bengal, where it had ruled close to 32 years, to the TMC in 2011, when Mamata stormed to power with an overpowering majority. The party was further reduced in successive elections.
“Even in Tripura local body elections, although we secured a majority, the fact that the BJP was able to replace the Congress as the second largest party was a concern. The Congress is losing its base and that is being claimed by the BJP. We are going to discuss all these issues before the plenum,” Karunakaran told The Sunday Guardian.
The party has sent questionnaires to all state committees enquiring about party members, electoral communicators and cadre strength. The committees have been asked to prepare reports by November, which will be taken up for discussion in the plenum.
However, a CPM source said it is improbable that the party will entertain any talk of revising its ideological mooring even though it is faced with the threat of irrelevance due to greater acceptance of neo-liberal policies.
“The BJP made number of promises at the time of the elections. There was an illusion in the youth regarding their poll promises. The youth want their aspirations to be fulfilled and so they voted for the BJP. But now that they are not delivering their immediate promises, including the one on black money, the illusion will give way to disillusion,” Karunakaran said, an admission of sorts that the CPI(M) would wait for the BJP bubble to burst by itself rather than coming up with any significant counter tactic in the plenum.
Although it is an open secret that the CPM cadre is moving to the TMC in bulk in West Bengal, where elections are due next year, Karunakaran said they have not yet gone into the election tactics. He said the plenum would deal with “organisational issues”.