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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 23, May 28, 2011

Congress - DMK Ties, ‘Monolithic’ CPM’s Future


Thursday 9 June 2011, by SC


While DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi’s daughter and MP Kanimozhi continues to be in Tihar Jail alongwith former Union Telecom Minister A. Raja and Kalaignar TV MD Sharath Kumar (all accused in the 2G spectrum scam), Karunanidhi and his family members have one by one come to the Capital to meet her in a bid to offer her solace and the assurance that they all stand by her. At the same time Karunanidhi, whose woes have definitely mounted on having been humiliated in the just concluded State Assembly elections by his arch rival AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa and unceremoniously removed from power, has said he did not meet Congress President and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi because he did not want to cause her any embarrassment arising out of his daughter being in jail. On her part Sonia has conveyed through Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to Karunanidhi in Chennai that she was ‘concerned’ over the detention of Kanimozhi, a woman, but could do nothing to prevent the law from following its course.

In fact the Congress is going all out to mollify the DMK patriarch. The party spokesman has rebuffed present Tamil Nadu CM Jayalithaa’s allegation that the DMK was indirectly responsible for former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, asserting that “people should refrain from trying to politicise a tragedy” of such proportions as Rajiv’s gruesome killing. Simultaneously, apart from Ghulam Nabi Azad, several Union Ministers, including Home Minister P. Chidambaram, as well as Congress MP Jayanthi Natarajan have called on Karunanidhi to extend their solidarity with him in his hour of crisis.

All these are indicative of the importance the Congress attaches to the 18 MPs of the DMK in the Lok Sabha (which is the principal reason why the leading constituent of the UPA is reluctant to terminate its tie-up with Karunanidhi—witness the warmth with which Sonia greeted the DMK supremo’s sole representative T.R. Baalu at the function held in the Capital marking the ruling alliance’s second anniversary in power as UPA II). However, it is also a fact that the DMK and its chief too have no alternative but to stick along with the Congress in the UPA at the moment, given the adversities they are currently facing on the politial front.

At the other end, as far as the Left is concerned, an interesting development has taken place of late. The CPM leadership has in public refused to ‘reform’ itself following its debacle in West Bengal in particular (after all, it would then lose the raison d’etre for its separate existence from the CPI, won’t it?) as reflected in the pronouncements of the party General Secretary and his wife. But in a signed article in a daily, one of their close associates, that is, Prof Prabhat Patnaik, known as the intellectual pillar of the CPM, has affirmed (even while rejecting suggestions to convert the party into a social democratic organisation):

The reform they (the CPM) must undertake is not to abandon the concept of ‘imperialism’, but the very opposite, that is, to be even more firm in adhering to it. They must be even more vigilant that the basic classes whose interests they seek to defend—namely the workers, the peasants, the agricultural labourers—are provided relief rather than distress (through encroachments by imperialism and domestic corporate interests). And for this they must ensure space within the party for debate, discussion and dissent, so that it becomes a thriving hub of intellectual activity, rather than a monolithic entity where a decision taken at the behest of some local satrap or bureaucrat in a Left-ruled State is defended, as revolutionary duty, by its members and sympathisers all over the country.

Is this not a round-about way of opposing the ‘monolithic’ culture within the CPM, notably in West Bengal, that militates against genuine democratic functioning? Regardless of whatever the party faithful may assert, that is precisely the conclusion which a lay observer would draw from the foregoing.

Does this signify a churning within the party? It is too early to hazard an answer in the affirmative. But if this is indeed so, it is doubtless a welcome development that would hopefully help the party to shed its Stalinist baggage and opt for a truly democratic course which would not necessarily make it a social democratic outfit. Rather, the confusion that had prevailed within the party in the recent past with the central leaders speaking in one voice and their West Bengal counterparts advancing totally different ideas, had paved the way for its transformation into a non-ideological party of questionable social democratic character.

It is for the leadership to determine the CPM’s future but before that it must accept the objective causes for its rout, something which till date it is not prepared to do in public.

It would do no harm to the CPM, but actually benefit it, if it draws appropriate lessons from the democratic instincts of Jawaharlal Nehru, whose fourtyseventh death anniversary we observe tomorrow, instead of remaining a prisoner of the 1959 episode in Kerala.

May 26 S.C.

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