A four-day training session for the Punjab cadres of the Communist Party of India (CPI) started here on Friday, but there remains utter lack of clarity on the role of the CPI, and the larger Left, in the assembly polls due in the state early next year.
“We will see how we can keep the secular democratic front intact against both the communal parties, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP,” said Joginder Dayal, the only one from Punjab in the 31-member national executive of the CPI.
Dayal has prepared fresh lessons to be taught at the “party school” session; but, when asked pointedly about the CPI’s probable tie-up for the Punjab elections, “Yes, (Punjab Congress chief) Capt Amarinder Singh was keen (for a tie-up), but as you know our party’s decisions are taken at the central level.”
The CPI’s national executive meets in Delhi on May 28-29 to review the recent poll results in five states. He added that the Left was “in a dilemma after the West Bengal results when it comes to a tie-up with the Congress in Punjab now”.
Dilemma over AAP
Dayal added, “Options for the CPI are open for talks with the AAP in Punjab,” but the party’s another senior leader, Bant Brar, said, “AAP is no alternative in Punjab.”
Brar said that the survival of the identity of the Left in Punjab was now in question, with no clear picture in sight for the Punjab elections.
CPI Punjab unit secretary Hardev Arshi had his own version: “The main contest is between the AAP and Congress... There are still eight months to go (to the elections), we will see when the time comes.”
On the sidelines of the ‘party school’, where district unit chiefs were in attendance too, cadres quietly had lunch before the lessons began, murmuring over the political scenario across the state.
Two office-bearers each from Nawanshahar and Amritsar told HT, in condition of anonymity, that the buzz on the AAP’s upsurge in Punjab “has caught the attention of the youth in Leftist forces too”.
“Our cadres do ask us about the strategy for the elections, but we have only one answer: Decision comes from the central leadership,” said a senior CPI leader from Amritsar, also on the condition of anonymity.
4 parties divided over Cong
However, most others on the Left too, including Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), the largest Leftist party, remain undecided.
The CPM that led the Left’s alliance with Congress in West Bengal would decide on its strategy for the Punjab elections after its three-day central committee meeting in Delhi scheduled from June 18, said CPM state secretary Charan Singh Virdi.
“Our standard line is to strengthen the Left democratic front in Punjab, and all the four factions of the Left in Punjab would meet for electoral talks in the latter half of July,” Virdi told HT over the phone.
CPI (Marxist Leninist)-Liberation state secretariat member Bhagwant Samaon said that in case the CPI and CPM tied up with the Congress, his party and the group called CPM-Punjab led by Mangat Ram Pasla would stand against both the Congress and the ruling Akali-BJP combine.
“All four (Left) parties had decided to campaign against the capitalist and feudal approach of both the Congress and the SAD-BJP. Therefore, a tie-up with the Congress is not possible,” Samaon said. “You have seen what has happened in West Bengal,” he added. Pasla, when contacted, endorsed Samaon’s assertions that any alliance with the Congress “will not be accepted”.
About the ‘school’
Meanwhile, at the CPI session at the People’s Convention Centre here, lessons in basic Left ideology would be taught. “I will be addressing the cadres about Punjab’s social, political and economic situation and the proposals that the CPI could come out with for economic restructuring,” Dayal said.
“Then there will be a session on Marxism and the Marxist philosophy to be addressed by central leaders as well.”
*The last time a Left party had its presence in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha was 2002-07, after two of its candidates won as it had an alliance with the Congress. However, both later joined the Congress.
*In the last assembly elections, in 2012, the erstwhile People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) of Manpreet Badal (since merged with Congress) had an alliance with the CPI and ‘seat adjustment; with CPM; all of them drew a blank.
*In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Manpreet Badal was supported by Left factions as a Congress candidate. He lost. CPI and CPM had a seat-sharing adjustment for the remaining 12 seats, but all their candidates had to forfeit security deposits.