Facing cadre anger, CPI-M to hold state committee meet

The CPI-M will begin a two-day state committee session in erstwhile red citadel West Bengal Monday to discuss the debacle in the recent Lok Sabha polls.

Kolkata: Against the backdrop of an unprecedented resentment among workers against the party leadership following a string of electoral setbacks, the CPI-M will begin a two-day state committee session in erstwhile red citadel West Bengal Monday to discuss the debacle in the recent Lok Sabha polls.

Around a fortnight after the Lok Sabha results presented it with its worst ever performance in the state since the party`s formation 50 years back, senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leaders from all districts would meet here to hold a preliminary review of the electoral outcome and discuss ways and means to contain the demoralising effect among the cadres, many of whom have been gunning for the leaders.

"The meeting has been called for a preliminary analysis of the 16th Lok Sabha elections. It will discuss the preliminary review reports submitted by the districts," the party mouthpiece Ganashakti said.

However, the time period between the May 16 Lok Sabha vote count and the meeting has been marked by never-seen-before scenes of anger against the top leaders in the party once known for its monolithic structure.

With only two of the 42 seats in the state returning CPI-M candidates, the only ones bagged by the once all-powerful Left Front which ruled the state for a record 34 years till 2011, posters have appeared outside district offices asking leaders to change their lifestyle and way of functioning. 

A motley group of current and expelled leaders even brought out a march that ended close to the state party headquarters Muzaffar Ahmed Bhawan, the venue of the state committee meeting, calling for a change of leadership.

Even former party stalwart and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee has gone public supporting the demand for the present leadership to step down by owning moral responsibility for the virtual washout and make way for a new set of faces.

The posters outside a party office in Bankura district are sharp pointers to the frustration and discontent among the CPI-M rank and file as the party battles a shrinking support base that started in the 2008 panchayat polls and has gone unchecked.

In fact, the Lok Sabha outcome saw the CPI-M`s vote share come down to less than 23 percent, and that of the Left Front to 29.5 percent, much lower than the corresponding figures in the 2009 general elections and the 2011 assembly polls.

The posters asked the leaders to shun private cars and use public transport, come out of the comforts of the air-conditioned party offices and hit the streets to connect with the masses.

Though the district leadership promptly removed the tell-tale symbols of protest, some other posters appeared in the East Midnapore district attacking the powers-that-be in the party.

The virulent criticism prompted the party last week to field leader of opposition and politburo member Surjya Kanta Mishra - who still seems to enjoy the trust of the cadres - to deflect the criticism.

Addressing a party programme, Mishra claimed targeting the party high-ups could not be the means to get the CPI-M out of the dismal times it has been passing through.

Citing the example of China, Mishra said in the Communist country was once gave a call to bomb the party headquarters. "But that is not how we look at things. A real communist has to fight against all such trends."

The cadres have also reportedly expressed anguish at the top party leaders not standing by them when they fall victim to the violence allegedly unleashed by the ruling Trinamool Congress.
This has now prompted the leadership to form three regional teams to visit the troubled spots. On Sunday, Mishra went to Ketugram in Burdwan district to visit the house of a slain CPI-M worker.
With a resurgent BJP threatening to usurp the anti-Trinamool space, the CPI-M leadership is passing through what looks like its toughest test in the golden jubilee year of the party`s formation. It remains to be seen if the leadership can address the issues in the meeting, where sparks can fly.

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