Focus on 'third front'

Print edition : January 02, 1999

The meeting of the Central Committee of the CPI(M) addressed a wide range of issues besides constituting the party's Polit Bureau and filling up the vacancies in the Central Committee.

THE meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the third week of December was considered important both in terms of the party's internal organisational plans and in terms of its role in national politics.

On the organisational front, the CPI(M) had to constitute its Polit Bureau, a task that had been left unfulfilled by the party's 16th congress held in Calcutta in October, besides filling up the vacancies in the Central Committee. In terms of political and ideological initiatives, the Central Committee had to address the new political climate that had emerged in the aftermath of the November elections to the Assemblies of three States and Delhi and evaluate the success in advancing the agenda put forward at the party congress.

CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet.-V. GANESAN

The Calcutta congress had categorically stated that the central task of the party in the current political context was to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party and the coalition Government it led at the Centre, since it represented the multiple threat of communalism and retrograde economic policies. The party congress had decided to give issue-based support to the Congress(I) if the latter decided to form an interim government should the BJP-led Government fall, either in the medium- or in the short-term. At the same time, it had made it clear that such support would mean neither compromising the CPI(M)'s basic ideology nor forming a front or alliance with the Congress(I). The party congress had also emphasised that the CPI(M)'s struggles against the policy of economic liberalisation would focus attention on the role of both the BJP and the Congress(I) since both of them supported the liberalisation process. It had pointed out that the Congress(I) cannot abdicate its share of the responsibility in imposing the liberalisation policy on the country, thereby inflicting great damage to the economy.

In the context of this two-dimensional tactic evolved by the 16th party congress, the CPI(M) placed a lot of importance on the December 11 all-India strike organised by the National Platform of Mass Organisations against the economic policies of the BJP-led Government. The CPI(M) supported the strike, terming it as one of the first agitational ventures towards implementing the decisions of the party congress.

The three-day deliberations of the Central Committee expressed satisfaction over the success of the strike and said that it had been "a powerful expression against the harmful effects of economic liberalisation". It noted that the total strike in the insurance, banking, port and dock and mines sectors, public sector undertakings, plantations and mercantile offices was indicative of the widespread response the strike call had evoked.

The Central Committee noted that a sort of alliance has emerged between the BJP and the Congress(I) in pursuing the policies of economic liberalisation. CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet pointed out that the way the Congress(I) facilitated the tabling of the Patents Bill, extending full support to the BJP-led Government, was indicative of this. The Congress(I)'s support to the Insurance Regulatory Authority Bill also denoted this association, he said.

The Central Committee's deliberations mirrored the thinking in the party that the Congress(I) was not keen on dislodging the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government despite the party's success in recent Assembly elections, which had proved that the popular mood was very much against the ruling party. A senior CPI(M) leader told Frontline: "Indications are that the Congress(I) wants to use the Vajpayee Government's penchant for pushing ahead with the policies of economic liberalisation to its advantage and get all the controversial bills based on the policy of economic liberalisation passed before knocking out the Government and taking over the reins. Obviously, the CPI(M) cannot play along with it."

The Central Committee's deliberations highlighted the fact that the political and organisational report of the 16th party congress underlined the BJP's double standards on the issue of liberalisation. The political resolution pointed out that the BJP had capitalised on the discontent generated by the liberalisation policy of the Congress(I) Government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao by launching movements advocating a "swadeshi economic policy". However, once it came to power it abandoned the "swadeshi" stand and began to support the same liberalisation policy it had condemned, the resolution said.

Commenting on the Congress(I)'s support to the BJP-led coalition Government on the Patents and IRA bills, Surjeet said: "This stance of Congress(I) leaders only testifies that they have not learned their lessons from the popular rejection they suffered in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections." The CPI(M) leader observed that it was the policies reflected in the Patents and IRA bills that had discredited the P.V. Narasimha Rao Government and caused electoral reverses to the party. He said that it would be wrong to view the Congress(I)'s victory in the recent elections as an endorsement of its policies. "The Congress(I) gained in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi essentially because the people were fed up with the BJP's governance and the price rise," he said.

In the wake of these happenings, the Central Committee pointed out, the party and other Left and democratic organisations had to step up mass struggles against the economic policies being pushed forward by the BJP Government and the Congress(I) as also against the price rise and the hoarding of essential commodities. The need to launch a movement to strengthen the public distribution system (PDS) was also highlighted.

The Central Committee asserted the need for the Left and other democratic forces to continue the fight against the attacks on minorities in BJP-ruled States; the move to impart a Hindutva orientation to education by tampering with academic syllabi; and the intervention in cultural and educational institutions. The Central Committee decided to take up the issue of women's rights and the cause of Dalits through agitations. It will also mobilise public opinion against the Government's move to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The Central Committee pointed out that all these efforts would lead to the reforging of the third alternative as visualised by the 16th party congress. However, the contours of the proposed third front in terms of political parties are still unclear. Still, a beginning seems to have been made, with Surjeet participating in the Samajwadi Party's conference in Uttar Pradesh, where he spoke about the "collusion" between the Congress(I) and the BJP and underlined the need to form a third alternative.

APART from discussing the political line the CPI(M) is likely to follow in the short- and medium-term, the Central Committee elected a 17-member Polit Bureau to guide the party's future activities. Eleven members from the previous Polit Bureau were retained, while six new faces were inducted. The new members are: Kerala State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, West Bengal leaders Anil Biswas and Biman Bose, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions M.K. Pandhe and Andhra Pradesh leader Hanumantha Rao.

Six new members were brought into the Central Committee too. Two women, P.K. Srimathy from Kerala and Mithali Kumar from West Bengal, are among the new entrants.

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