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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 43, New Delhi, October 9, 2021

The CPI And Kanhaiya Kumar’s Departure | Ajayakumar Kodoth

Friday 8 October 2021, by Ajayakumar Kodoth


by Dr Ajayakumar Kodoth

No young leader has succeeded in enthusing or attracting the youth in their anti-imperialist and anti-Fascist ideology and struggles in India quite as much as Kanhaiya Kumar has in recent times. Against the backdrop of the steady petering out of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Indian politics in the past couple of decades, his entry into the national mainstream was evaluated as an unexpected political windfall for the party. It is an incontestable fact that his anti-Fascist voice gained widespread acceptance at the national level. But whether his departure from the CPI spells the departure of the CPI from Indian politics is an issue that demands analysis.

The Sacrificial Goat of Stalinism

When as the President of JNU Students’ Union Kanhaiya Kumar commanded unexpected national attention with his anti-Fascist interventions, the national-level leadership of the CPI could have used it as an opportunity to attract the youth to its side on a massive scale. If a smart young man like Kanhaiya Kumar got soon disillusioned with the traditional Stalinist style of the party’s leadership, there is nothing to be surprised about.

One is reminded of high-level leaders of the CPI in the 1970s like Mohan Kumaramangalam, Nandini Satpathy and K. R. Ganesh who, unable to bear the Stalinist attitude of the leadership, resigned from the party and joined the Congress. Kumaramangalam and Ganesh became central ministers, and Nandini Satpathy, the CM of Odisha. If Kanhaiya Kumar’s entry into the Congress delivers the expected results, his elevation to a key post in Bihar is not beyond the realm of possibility. The emergence of Karpuri Thakur and Lalu Prasad Yadav as Socialist leaders have proven that the fertile soil of Bihar permits such possibilities.

It is worth remembering that the resignation of people like Kumaramangalam from the CPI in the 1970s took place after the CPI had formed an alliance with the Congress at the national level. It was not a quarrel over political policy but over the Stalinist-sectarian approach of the leadership that resulted in the departure of senior comrades. Kanhaiya Kumar’s exit too indicates a protest against the same. If the CPI leadership had been open-minded towards the potential that Kanhaiya Kumar represented, he would have, at the very least, become a Rajya Sabha member from Kerala, and become a scintillating presence in the Parliament. The Stalinist style adopted by the Communist movements all over the world – of denying worthy candidates of power and sidelining them – has gained notoriety at all times.

CPI : Growth and Decline

It was in 1925 that the RSS and the CPI were born. The RSS, through the BJP, is currently in the process of consolidating its power over the whole of India. But what is the condition of the CPI and the CPM today? In the first Lok Sabha, in 1952, it garnered 52 seats and became the main opposition party. In the 1957 elections, the CPI won nearly nine percent of votes. S. A. Dange, who won from the Bombay city central parliament seat, got more votes than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru himself. In that same period, the Mayors of Delhi and Bombay city corporations were CPI’s Aruna Asaf Ali and S. S. Mirajkar respectively. What is its state today?

In the decades that followed the Bhatinda Congress of 1978, the growth chart of the CPI has shown a steep decline. It has reached the nadir now. A fact that the CPI needs to know is that the party, that parted ways with the Congress at Bhatinda, had notched the highest degree of growth in its history in 1975-78, when it maintained an alliance with the Congress.

The Leninist thought – it is not a leader who creates a movement but a movement that creates a leader –holds good even today. At Bhatinda, in 1978, the CPI rejected its policy of a national democratic revolution by forming an expansive alliance with the Congress against imperialism and communal Fascism. And it toed the line of the CPM’s policy of people’s democratic revolution. That was where the CPI faltered terribly. With that step, the CPI’s Bhatinda decision came to be viewed as an acknowledgement of the correctness of the CPM and a ratification of the CPM’s long-standing argument about the inevitability of the 1964 split. It also resulted in the CPM consolidating its political existence. A Himalayan blunder committed by the CPI in order to relieve itself of the guilt over having supported the Emergency! Several leaders – from S. A. Dange to C. K. Chandrappan – pointed out the danger lurking behind this policy change on the wrong occasion. What happened at Bhatinda in 1978 was that the CPI surrendered its very existence in front of the CPM. Is there any wonder that as a ‘B’ team to CPM, the CPI soon became irrelevant? If a movement becomes ideationally stagnant, how can it create gritty leaders?

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