The Communist Party of India (CPI) recently received a notice from the election commission as to why its national party status should not be revoked. The very next day, D Raja was announced the party general secretary.
On Wednesday Raja's tenure as a Rajya Sabha MP will get over and CPI members in Parliament will be reduced to three.
Excerpts from Raja's interview with Malayala Manorama after taking over as the CPI chief.
You are taking up the reins of CPI at a time when the Communist parties have suffered the worst setback in history. How do you feel?
It is a very challenging time and the responsibility is enormous. Many are questioning the relevance of Communist parties. Some even write obituaries for the communist parties. The rightist forces are unleashing severe attack on the left movement. BJP and RSS have come to power once again and aim to redefine the idea of India. They challenge parliamentary democracy, multi-party system, pluralism and secularism. They might have won the battle electorally, but to say that they have succeeded the socio-political struggle is wrong. The left is the only force that can challenge them comprehensively. CPI is the party which has the longest history of struggle and tradition after Congress. We intend to pursue our battle against BJP not just on ideological front but also for the political social and economic rights of the disadvantaged.
You are talking about the history of CPI. But it took 90 years for them to a have Dalit as its general secretary. Other Communist parties have never had a Dalit at the helm.
This reflects the social reality of the country. Communist parties are not immune to this. There is growing realisation on the part of Communists on how to practice Marxism in a society ridden by caste. There has to be an outlook based on the social reality. Ours is proletarian party. We have our own intellectuals and theoretical practices. We are working among the downtrodden. They don’t expect any sympathetic approach from anyone. Only thing they demand is rightful place in society and an equal share of wealth they also create.
Caste discrimination is prevalent in Communist parties
Indian revolution will not happen by undertaking struggle on economic front only. This has to be comprehensive. They have to wage battle against social discrimination. We are aware of this reality. I don’t think that there are caste discrimination within the Communist parties. Everything has evolved historically. Party cadres have to understand this reality and work accordingly.
You are one of the Communists who still cherish the values of simple life . But many are besieged by unethical practices that are becoming more prevalent in society.
This can’t be generalised. There might be problems with the style of some comrades. While some are questioning the relevance of the left itself, there are others who feel that if left parties are marginalised that will create an ethical vacuum in the polity. What shaped me is my ideological sensibility and the approach to life. My parents were faceless, that is to say they were landless agricultural labourers. They were part of toiling masses. And they found happiness in sharing the agony and ecstasy of hard work.
CPI is on the verge of losing national party status
Election commission has issued us a notice in this regard. To keep national party tag by presenting our points before them is one thing, but the real challenge is to improve electoral performance. There is a gap between our ideological commitment and electoral performance. This needs to be overcome by improving our electoral tally. When you win hearts of the masses, the party succeeds. It is not the election commission that determines the position of the party among the people.
How the left got decimated like this?
There are many reasons for this. In a multi-party system left has to cooperate with other parties. Some problems might have developed in doing so in the past. But the real question is relation with the masses.
Within the left how convenient it is for CPI to cooperate with CPM?
The present situation demands serious introspection from all Communist parties. Strategies need to be re-drafted. There is a need for re-unification. We always talk about the need for unity based on principles. But you can’t clap with only one hand. Everyone should realise this. Working together demands mutual trust and respect.
Issues like these are common in Kerala. Even the student wing of CPI is being targeted.
If we had won last election everyone would have given credit to better cooperation. Our party leaders in Kerala will comment about issues associated with the state government. I won’t now comment on issues facing the students movement. We are facing a fascist state at the national level. We are not even sure about the survival of Parliament. In these circumstances we need to work out a plan together on how to move ahead.
The ideological reasons that led to the split of Communist parties no longer exist. Is not merger a possibility now.
Merging with whom? We are talking about re-unification. Some questions have to be left to the mercy of history to have an answer. Communist parties need to work together to move ahead. Rightist parties are coming together. The secular parties could not form an alliance the way BJP had with their allies in the last election. Congress can’t move ahead by adhering to their old beliefs. They should discard some of their policies. Congress accused Modi of rebranding their projects. This is what Congress has to stop.
On the question of association with Congress, issues are within the CPM and not in CPI.
CPM had an electoral arrangement with Congress in Odisha. They intend to have one in West Bengal also. Let us not delve into this. That is not the issue now. The real question is how to resist Modi government.
Major crisis that debilitate left parties is that they can’t resonate with the aspirations of the youth.
If this is a crisis then the BJP is also facing this. He (Narendra Modi) might have won elections but that does not mean that the youth in the country are all behind him. Younger people have their own issues. Economic crisis and lack of job generation are life issues for them. We also have younger people. They did not come to the party by giving missed calls. Communist parties' relevance can't be questioned not just in India but at the international level also. Socio-political and economic justice are issues every countries are encountering. Only Communists can take up these issues and lead the masses.