Balance sheet of CPM's Party Congresstext_fields
It's curtain down for the 23rd P|arty Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) with a call for popular protests against the anti-people policies of the ruling establishment of the country. In the land of Kannur, with memories galore of the history of Communist martyrs, the rally of lakhs of people and the concluding session were both exciting and morale boosting for the party workers. The Party Congress also elected the leadership for the next three-year term in which, as expected, Sitaram Yechury was re-elected General Secretary. The meet also stood out by electing a Dalit to the Polit Bureau for the first time, in Dr Ramachandra Dome of West Bengal. The induction of Kerala's A Vijayaraghan, instead of S Ramachandran Pillai, the latter being was excluded due to age bar, and the election to the Central Committee of Kerala's CS Sujatha, P Sathidevi, P Rajeeve and KN Balagopal were developments that the host state's party unit would feel enthused about. When 17 new faces enter the 85-strong Central Committee, it represents a welcome change of generation in the party leadership too.
It is the CPM's practice to hold the Party Congress every three years, elect a new leadership and debate and formulate plans and policies for the next term. Given that most political parties of the country cannot claim to follow such a practice, these Congresses are generally subject of keen discussion across the country; and they enjoy media attention other parties do not attract. This time it was no exception. The fact that this year's Congress was held in Kerala, the stronghold of Indian Communist movement, and that too in the land of Kannur where the party's grassroots took shape, is the first reason for its wide attention. Also contributing to the public curiosity was the question whether the CPM has any concrete program of action to offer a defence for secular India against the sangh parivar regime, which under Modi's leadership, and on the back of the brute majority in Parliament, has been taking out its Fascist sinews by throwing to the streets its frenzied mobs. This eagerness to know about it was strong among the diverse class groups and sections of people. But those who observed the proceedings of the sessions will be prompted to say the Party Congress disappointed those sections on that score. In the first place, the party is still undecided whether Modi's government fits the description of a Fascist regime. Viewed in that angle, what was heard in Kannur was only a reiteration of the voices heard in the 2018 Hyderabad Party Congress. When Hindutva politics is targeting every acclaimed feature of the Indian ethos, and when the very life of minorities has become a big question mark, how can the party leadership which says 'this is not fascism, but only fascist tendency' take the lead for a well-organised popular agitation against the Modi regime?
The political-organisational report presented by Prakash Karat and the political resolution presented by Sitaram Yechury constituted the main agenda of the meet. Karat's report contained the self-criticism that the party machinery failed to gauge the growth of the BJP. This implies that there was a serious lacuna in analysing the Modi government and the Hindutva ideology. And that was why the CPM repeated that Modi regime was not fascism. Still, the Party Congress has declared beyond doubt that the BJP is its arch political enemy. At the same time, the political resolution states that there is no clarity on how to take on the BJP. Yechury's repeated assertion that there will be no electoral alliance at the national level is to be read together with this. Although his statement that only post-poll alliances will be feasible since each state has its own political circumstances can be taken at its face value, ultimately it smacks of an anti-Congress streak. If a secular national front takes shape, it is certain that the Congress will be part of that as a party with roots in most states, however strong or weak. It may be because such an alliance will create a political backlash in states including Kerala that the CPM adopted such a party line stopping short of accommodating the Congress. True, the Congress has its own frailties now. Still keeping the Congress away in the agenda of an anti-Modi line-up would amount to diluting the concept of a broad secular anti-Fascist front. Besides, it is clear such a policy will mainly benefit the party's Kerala unit alone. This can also be read as reducing the party agenda to a Kerala plan. And the amendment to the draft resolution to extend the 'Kerala model' programmes including the SilverLine project, to a national level has to be read as part of this agenda. In this sense, the 23rd Party Congress can be said to have got reduced to a special session of Kerala. At the same time, the proposals put forward by the Party Congress to protect the federalism of the country need to be taken up by all secular movements. Also, the declaration that the party will give the lead to the joint struggles involving states ranged against the Modi regime, does raise hopes.