Thoughts of a Fellow Comrade
Kanhaiya Kumar, one of the most vibrant and celebrated student leaders from India and a member of the National Executive of CPI (Communist Party of India), expelled himself from the party to join INC (Indian National Congress) on 28th September 2021. The event has paved the way for new discussions and criticisms in political forums. People are curious to know how this will benefit INC in the upcoming elections, to build new strategies, and for the CPI, what they will do next after losing one of their important faces who had a huge presence in the election campaigning last time. In the press meeting held at Ajoy Bhavan, D. Raja, the General Secretary of CPI has denounced Kanhaiya on behalf of the party. Now politicians and political observers are carefully deliberating to assess the future of CPI and left politics in general. Many have come to the conclusion that the party has lost its relevance in Indian politics, and the withdrawal of their most popular young leader will tarnish the party’s reputation.
The migration of leaders from Leftist spheres to Congress is not a new phenomenon. Let’s take an example from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), a campus that is popularly known as the epicentre of India’s leftist student politics and all major left lenient student political organizations in the country. Before Kanhaiya, the other alumni from JNU who joined INC after their student political career in Left organizations include Devi Prasad Tripathi, who was the JNUSU President (from SFI) in 1975-76, Shakeel Ahmad Khan, JNUSU President (from SFI) in 1992-93, Batti Lal Bairwa, JNUSU President (from SFI) in 1996-97, 97-98, Syed Naseer Hussain, JNUSU President (from SFI) in 1999-2000, Sandeep Singh, JNUSU President (from AISA) in 2007-08, Mohit Pandey, JNUSU President (from AISA) in 2016-17 etc. This list can be expanded by anyone who performs a thorough research in the matter.
As a person who identifies with the Leftist politics and as an activist of All India Students’ Federation (AISF) (the student political organization in which Kanhaiya Kumar worked before entering CPI), I believe this turn of events should be considered as something which motivates leftist organizations a moment to think for a need of self-criticism on their syllabus of nurturing a true activist. Such exits of eminent comrades will always remain as an unpleasant clause in the party’s history, but at the same time, these events can be used for self-evaluation and revision of existing systems.
Since I’m attempting to answer the prime question regarding the relevance and future of CPI, let me elaborate on my journey to AISF and CPI first. From a student who was always interested in the country’s political developments and student movements, it was Kanhaiya Kumar who inspired me to join AISF. Althoughthe party was active in my locality, I usually preferred to stay aloof from active politics. But the sedition controversy of 2016 and the eloquent speech given by Kanhaiya Kumar on a night at the Freedom Square in JNU inspired me to join active politics. Till the day, I remained a follower of Marxism but without a party affiliation or membership. But from the very next day, I decided to join AISF and started my career in student politics. As I am very much interested in reading books, especially history, I learned more about the organization and decided to be a part of it. The first lesson the organization taught me was to criticize myself and leaders, including Kanhaiya Kumar, healthily. Thus I can deliver unbiased writing about the relevance of CPI and also cannot stay aloof from healthy self-criticisms.
From the end of the 1990s, the graph of CPI showed a steady decline in the number of seats it had in Parliament and various state assemblies. One cannot deny the fact that this caused severe damages to the roots of CPI. The demise of the tallest leaders like A. B. Bardan and Gurudas Das Gupta also deepened the crisis. Even in the current scenario, the situation remains the same. If there is a steady decline in the performance of the party, then what is its relevance now?
Here are my observations and a possible answer to this. To judge a party like CPI or any party by its electoral performance is never an accurate measure to know its depth and popularity among the masses. To understand a party well, apart from the vote percentage, one should look into the other tentacles of influence among the masses. CPI is deeply rooted in people through NFIW, AITUC, AIBEA, AISF, AIYF, IPTA. To begin with, NFIW, an organization dedicated to the well-being and welfare of women, has made a detailed report on the state violence against women during Anti-CAA protests in New Delhi. NFIW was the first and the only organization to prepare such a detailed report. Even though CPI appears to be weak in New Delhi, NFIW made a groundbreaking report elaborately on issues women face in the region. To know the working of NFIW, one must be engaged with it or closely study the working system rather than merely criticizing such organizations from outside. When it comes to the case of marginalized women in some regions of northeastern states, it is NFIW that pioneered their struggle for rights and justice. Since its origin, NFIW has been the stalwart of women rights activism and continues its influence among the women masses. Aruna Roy, the founder of Mazdoor Kissan Shakthi Sanghathan, is currently the president of NFIW. Under her leadership, NFIW played a vital role in the formation of the RTI Act and various social and political movements. When it comes to states like Manipur, women who do menial jobs and women who are the survivors of rape and assault are organized and rehabilitated by the efforts of NFIW.
The same model of working can be seen in states like Rajasthan. Bhanwari Devi, who played a crucial role in creating Vishaka guidelines and masterstroke court judgements, attended the National Conference of NFIW held at Rajasthan and spoke about how NFIW is helping her in the fight for equality and justice. Ashok Gehlot, CM of Rajasthan, inaugurated the conference. The government reports on the assessment of the impact of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005) which was prepared with the help of NFIW. Using the enhanced influence and base among the working-class women, NFIW collected data on the pros and cons of NREGA and acted as the resource pool for the government.
IPTA, the cultural organization established by Balraj Sahni, has deep roots and a strong base in many states. Their performances were often disturbed by the right-wing goons. Many such clashes happened in the states like Uttar Pradesh, but their popularity and acceptability prevented such extremist groups from stopping them. Even the other cultural organization which sprouted in later times still uses the slogans and the songs of IPTA. The cultural influence of IPTA is vast and extensive that it forces extreme right-wing outfits like Bajrang Dal to hoist severe pressure and threat to interrupt the programs organized by the group.
AIBEA (All India Bank Employees Association) is one of India’s most powerful and influential banking employee organizations. When it comes to bipartite settlements or any such issues, the first organization to be consulted is AIBEA. Arun Jaitley was forced to revoke the FRDI (Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance) bill due to the pressurefrom AIBEA. Many attempts to privatize the banking sector got dismantled as AIBEA resisted.
The Save India Long March, organized by AISF-AIYF, began from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. It marched through Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana and ended at Hussainiwala in Punjab. Hussainiwala, a historically significant place, is where Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev and Rajguru are buried. Sangh Parivar attacked the march in states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, but they failed to stop it ultimately.
AITUC (All India Trade Union Congress) is the largest left trade union in the country. The trade union also has solid sectors and a pivotal role in the workers’ movement in the country. AIKS (All India Kisan Sabha), under the leadership of Athul Kumar Anjan, who was a member of the Swaminathan Commission, is marching forward, organizing farmers in various states.
This is just a nutshell of how CPI works in various spheres. ISCUF (Indian Society for Cultural Co-operation and Friendship), an international peace and coordination organization, has played an essential role in developing strong relations with various countries. ISCUF is also a great platform comprising of high court judges and various distinguished personalities. The conference of ISCUF held in Chennai two years back was attended by many distinguished personalities. The office-bearers of ISCUF are invited by various countries as their official guests.
While different political opponents and even some of the Left organizations use sarcastic and scathing criticisms in social media and sharing misinformation portraying CPI, AISF, AIYF and other organizations as irrelevant political groups, they are intentionally trying to erase the efforts of many who firmly stood and fought for rights and justice. All these organizations backed by CPI, work in an independent manner and plays various roles in different spheres. The organizations are never directly controlled by the party. Instead, they receive moral and ideological support from the party. They remain independent organizations free from constraints and always maintain their individual identities. Apart from these mainstream organizations, there are several regional, indigenous organizations that CPI actively supports. To wrongly judge a political organization like CPI in any similar scenario will be absolved by history as long as the ordinary people believe and support the party.