The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is perhaps the only political party in the world to confess its own mistakes periodically and vow to rectify them—but only to make the same mistakes again. This cycle has been going on for nearly four decades. The end result is that the party has shrunk to just one pocket borough in Tripura in the Northeast, having lost its first bastion Kerala and then West Bengal, where it was well entrenched for 34 uninterrupted years.
The recent party plenum in Kolkata, held after a gap of 37 years, the last being the one in Howrah in 1979, was no different. Coming barely eight months after the party congress in Vijayawada, Kolkata, too, witnessed the same old confessions. The “revolutionary” party of the working classes is now being lured by “bourgeois parliamentary delusions”, not to speak of the irresistible liking it has developed for capitalist goodies. The latest admission, however, was that the party has lost its touch with the masses. Hence, the plenum decided to revive mass contact, whatever that means in ideological terms.
Setting aside the litany of confessions, it was evident that the plenum was really meant to gear up for the electoral politics that the party professes to abhor, and regain some lost ground. The idea was to spruce up the party for the Assembly elections scheduled for mid-2016 in West Bengal and Kerala. Though the comrades themselves know that West Bengal is a gone case—why else would the party even deliberate on reaching a working understanding with the Congress to confront Mamata Banerjee’s “autocratic” Trinamool Congress there?—there is a glimmer of hope in Kerala.
A few months ago, it was a foregone conclusion that Kerala, under the yoke of a corrupt Congress-led United Democratic Front, was all set to give the Marxist-led Left Democratic Front another chance. But that hope seems to be receding by the day, with the advent of the BJP in the southern state. The Marxists know this better than anyone else, so they are furiously redrawing their political strategies, tossing to the wind the confessions made at the Brigade Parade ground in Kolkata.
The CPM in Kerala is not taking any chances. The party is doing everything to woo the majority community, the crime they accuse the SNDP (Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana) supremo and political wannabe Vellappally Natesan of. The party does not stand much chance among the Christians and Muslims, whose vote bank is evenly shared between the Kerala Congress and the Muslim League, respectively. What is left is the majority Hindu community, with its many caste sub-sections. Hence, the CPM, which had hitherto banned its members from visiting places of worship, has made a turnaround, taking a lenient position towards all God-believing voters.
In fact, the party has even decided to participate in and organise temple festivals actively, taking out shobha-yatras and Janmashtami rallies. The CPM is also resorting to conducting yoga classes, much to the amusement of hardcore party workers and co-travellers.
It was at this opportune moment that the RSS Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat recently offered an olive branch to the CPM. Bhagwat, during one of his increasingly frequent visits to Kerala, let his followers know that he was open to talks to end the decades-old animosity with the CPM. He was calling for a sort of truce in the killing fields of Kerala, specifically in Kannur in the northern Malabar district. In the past four decades or so, there have been around 400 killings, not to speak of the thousands injured and maimed for life because of the political rivalry between the Marxists and the RSS.
The CPM has set up pension funds and martyr walls for those slain allegedly by the RSS. Kannur has attained such notoriety that girls from the area hardly get any suitors from outside. Outsiders seldom dare set foot there, let alone marry.
The hard-talking former CPM state secretary and party Politburo member, who has been held responsible for most of the killings, be it of RSS workers or his own party rivals, Pinarayi Vijayan, did not lose any time to say that his party was ready to sit across the table with the RSS chief. Though Vijayan also expressed his party’s doubts about RSS’ sincerity, the Congress has seen the peace move as a ploy for public consumption. Ending violence in Kannur, even if it lasts only until the elections, could be of mutual benefit to both the RSS and the CPM.
While RSS will be eyeing unhappy CPM workers over the truce, the Marxists would be hoping for some sympathy votes from the other side, by showing they can do better than the Sangh Parivar in their own fields of activity.
One of the Kerala-centric confessions that the CPM made is that the intra party power struggle had adversely affected its image, forcing many a sympathiser to desert the party; it pledged to end the same. The reference was to the unending ego tussle between veteran V.S. Achuthanandan and arch-rival Vijayan, who has the backing of the state party leadership.
Much before the plenum, 92-year-old Achuthanandan had thrown his hat in the ring, saying he was ready for another electoral battle if the people and party wanted. Vijayan, who is to lead the party’s Kerala yatra, a precursor to the coming elections, retorted that the party was yet to decide on the candidacy of Achuthanandan.
His associates even claimed that the one who leads the yatra would become the Chief Minister. However, there is no doubt among the general public as to who the Chief Minister will be in the event of VS contesting the elections and the LDF winning. Even school children in Kerala know of Vijayan’s longing for the chief ministerial post, even if it is a delusionary crime in Marxian terms. Blame it on
democracy, what else!