October 17, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Communist Party of India can regain its prominence. We also look at the new ways of fraud by the Cybercrime mafia in Jharkhand, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
CPI’s 24th National Congress – Can It Regain Its Mojo?
Political parties often have to deal with a lot of headwinds. Some start out small and grow into something bigger and meaningful. Others die out even before they’ve had a chance to have an impact. Then some fall from grace. Sometimes it’s hard to predict where the wind is blowing, but in others, the writing’s on the wall.
With that said, the Communist Party of India’s (CPI) national meet is underway as it looks to form a coherent strategy to take on the BJP and remerge on the national stage in any meaningful way. Over the past several years, the CPI’s influence has waned. Electorally, they’ve been left with only a handful of pockets across the country. They’re not the force they once were. As they now gather, can they chart a comeback? Or are the headwinds too strong?
To see where the CPI is going, we’ve got to look at its past. Per the official history of the party, it was formed in 1925 in Kanpur. There were previous attempts to form a communist party in India by people within and from outside. Initially, its goal was anti-imperialist patriotism as a movement parallel to the civil disobedience movement led by Gandhi and Congress.
At the time, the British imposed a ban on communist activities. They took aggressive measures, including imprisoning party leaders in 1929. It remained weak with little influence until it was legalised in 1942. Post-independence, it gained momentum. Its demands were social and economic equality for women, land reforms, and social justice for lower castes, among others.
In the 1950s, it did well politically, gaining a few seats in the Lok Sabha. It didn’t win enough seats to be the main opposition party. A breakthrough came in 1957. The party defeated Congress in the Kerala legislative assembly elections and formed the first non-Congress government in independent India. In the 1960s, things began to sour. A Congress-led coalition took back Kerala. In 1964, an ideological split between the Chinese and Soviet Communists led to many members leaving to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the CPI(M).
In the late 1970s, the party began aligning with the CPI(M) and other leftist parties to form the Left Front Coalition. It formed governments in Tamil Nadu, Tripura, and West Bengal. Cut to 2004, and a chance to influence things at the national level took shape. The CPI won 10 seats, and CPI(M) won 43. Combined, they were able to support the Congress-led UPA coalition. However, in 2008, they withdrew their support due to the government’s civil nuclear deal with the US.
In 2015, there was even talk of merging the CPI and the CPI(M). The latter’s General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury, spoke of the possibility. At the time, he said there was no time frame for a merger. He wanted to solidify his party first. While that never happened, the CPI today wants to unify all Left forces and parties against the BJP. Will they be able to do it on the other side of the ongoing party congress?
VIEW: Don’t count them out yet
As far as agendas go for the party, they’ve got the right idea and are on the right track. They’re obviously ideologically opposed to everything the BJP stands for. So that’s the mission right now. CPI general secretary D Raja outlined this when he said it’s important to tell Indian citizens what the RSS is trying to do in this country. He called for a left-of-centre position among secular and democratic parties to stand united. Perhaps Kerala, where the CPI and CPI(M) are in the alliance, is an example, while not a perfect one.
The timing could be ripe for the party. Raja pointed out that issues like a lack of social security, economic instability, and healthcare infrastructure should be tackled by the Left parties. As geopolitical and economic instability results in domestic concerns, there’s an opportunity for the party to hit the BJP hard on the issues of the everyday citizen. The good news is that the party has recognised that there’s a generational and gender gap and Raja said new guidelines will be formulated, including for age limits.
What the CPI has on its side is being an underdog. That may not guarantee success, but it could help them take a big leap forward. Some of the government’s economic policies haven’t helped. They’ve angered a large section of farmers with the controversial farm laws, which were eventually withdrawn. If unity is the answer, then there’s some good news. At the ongoing meet, among the 1,000-plus delegates attending will be CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI(ML) Liberation, and Forward Bloc All India leaders.
COUNTERVIEW: Too tall a mountain to climb
Again, the mission and the goal are correct, at least on paper. Transforming that into action and electoral wins is another thing altogether. The party’s barely got a presence in the country and its waning influence and repeated losses have taken a toll on its machinery. It doesn’t have the financial might the BJP does. The BJP also has a widespread social media and grassroots presence. Overcoming that won’t be a cakewalk.
It all comes down to strategy. Right now, the party doesn’t have one. The reality is it has lost its political clout. The CPI’s highest membership comes from Kerala, with 1.67 lakh members. In West Bengal, it has about 27,000 only. The party’s 24th meeting takes place in Andhra Pradesh, where it has only about 52,000 members. It has been beaten in several elections in places like Bengal and even in the Northeast, in Tripura. They even lost one of their stars, Kanhaiya Kumar, who joined the Congress.
There has also been a power struggle between Kanam Rajendran and his detractors led by national executive member K E Ismail and state executive member C Divakaran. In Kerala, the entry of the Kerala Congress into the Left Democratic Front complicated matters. Some leaders say the party has been reduced to a mirror image of the CPI(M). It’s facing its most challenging situation since the 1964 split. In the current socioeconomic context, the decline of the Left has confounded pundits. If they’ve failed to take advantage in the recent past, how could they now?
- Communist Party of India – Britannica
- History of the Communist Party of India – CPI website
- As CPI and CPI-M mull merger, a short history of how they split up in the first place – Scroll
- Merger with CPI on cards: CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury – Indian Express
- Its strength considerably depleted, CPI likely to elect new general secretary at 24th party congress – Times of India
- It is time for Left reunification, says Binoy Viswam – Onmanorama
- CPI will formulate alternative economic programmes at party congress, says D. Raja – The Hindu
- CPI’s national meet to kickstart today, focus on ‘bringing like-minded forces’ – Hindustan Times
- Combat Hindutva threat to secularism: CPI – New Indian Express
- Left behind? – Times of India
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The CPI can regain its political and electoral influence.
b) The CPI won’t be able to regain its political and electoral influence.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Why India Must Move Past Its Ambivalent Secularism Towards The Notion Of A Uniform Citizenship
For the Left:
India’s Economic Resilience Despite A Global Crisis Makes The World Take Lessons
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Global City project hurdle (Haryana) – The state government’s plan to showcase its ambitious Global City project to international investors has hit a snag. A couple of officials from the agency developing it have been suspended for not informing the government about the litigious status of parts of Garhi Harsaru and adjoining land in Gurugram where it will be built. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar led a delegation to the UAE seeking investments for the project.
Why it matters: The Global City will cover more than 1,080 acres out of 1,383 acres in Garhi Harsaru and adjoining villages. In 2006, these were transferred by the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) to Reliance Haryana to set up an SEZ. In 2013, Haryana asked Reliance to return it after the Gurugram SEZ couldn’t be developed even after 6 years.
Higher ageing threshold helps seniors (Karnataka) – A new study indicates that the ageing threshold in the state could be as high as 66 years as advancements in healthcare have helped increase life expectancy. The study looked at the remaining life expectancy, self-rating of health, ability to do day-to-day activities, etc, of those above 50 years to arrive at the multi-dimensional old age threshold (MOAT). For Karnataka, this is 66. It’s the state that has a higher threshold for women than men.
Why it matters: Higher thresholds can impact retirement age and state health policies. Karnataka fares better than others in MOAT. Maharashtra and West Bengal did better, with 68.6 and 66.5 years, respectively. The national average is 67 years. The survey was based on data from the 2011 census and the WHO study on Global Ageing and Adult Health from 2007-10.
Cyber mafia looking to expand (Jharkhand) – A small town called Jamtara has emerged as a point of interest for cyber investigators in cities like Chennai and others in South India. Intelligence received by the police shows cybercriminals are travelling to the South to learn local languages while earning. Once they return, they are better equipped to trap people from those states since they now speak the language.
Why it matters: Investigators from several states come to Jamtara to get to the bottom of digital fraud and deceptive calls. Some suspects said they travelled to Tamil Nadu and Kerala to learn the language. In one such case, the Chennai police contacted their counterparts in Jamtara when a doctor was defrauded of ₹8 lakhs. The first such case was registered in 2017, which led to six arrests.
Beer to get more costly (Goa) – The state government announced a hike in the excise duty on beer by ₹10-12 per bulk litre. The entry-level beer attracted ₹30 per bulk litre, it has now been increased to ₹42. In the premium segment, beer with more than 5% alcohol content that sells for more than ₹160 per bottle, there’s now a duty of ₹60. The All Goa Liquor Dealers Association said the price hike wouldn’t affect sales since consumption is usually local.
Why it matters: Due to a hike in excise duties, companies will now raise the price of beer by ₹15-20. The All Goa Liquor Dealers Association President Dattaprasad Naik said their demand had been a reduction of duties on Indian-made foreign liquor and foreign liquor. It’s because these are taken outside the state by tourists. A reduction in duties would help increase sales.
Discontinuing additional Foreign tribunal members (Assam) – The state decided to discontinue the services of 200 additional members of the Foreigners’ Tribunals. They were appointed to clear the claims of those left out of the NRC. The notice said the utilisation of the services of the members and the 2,000 posts of the Ministerial Staff would be considered as and when the NRC gets notified.
Why it matters: More than 19 lakh people were left out of the NRC on the updated list published in August 2019. They were given the option to move the Tribunals to prove they were Indian citizens. Assam currently has 100 Foreigner’ Tribunals and 200 additional members appointed by the government in 2019. A plea in the Supreme Court said Assam and the Centre were denying access to the biometrics of those who were left out of the 2019 list.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹35,000 crores – The amount that the leather, toy, and bicycle manufacturers will receive as production-linked initiatives (PLI). It’s in addition to incentives for other industries like semiconductors.