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We enjoy strong internal democracy: CPI(M) leader

By Malabika Bhattacharya

KOLKATA, DEC. 17. About four years ago, West Bengal's mainline Opposition parties such as Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress tried in vain to cause a rupture in the ruling CPI(M), which was then witnessing a limited intra-party debate on democratic centralism and the role of individuals.

Ms. Banerjee and State Congress leaders such as Somen Mitra or the BJP's Tapan Sikdar would often invite certain unhappy elements in the CPI(M) to join them.

Their common objective was to use the hoped-for breakaway group against the CPI(M) in the 2001 Assembly election and garner as many seats as possible, but they masked it by claiming that they were encouraging the so-called unhappy elements to come out and "taste freedom and democracy."

But neither the Trinamool, nor the Congress nor the BJP has been able to hold its own organisational elections. Ms. Banerjee runs her party — which many are leaving for want of mobility and lack of democratic values — like a fiefdom, while the Congress and the BJP are controlled by ad-hoc committees appointed by their national leaderships.

On the other hand, the CPI(M) leadership has nearly wound up its under-publicised organisational election — part of the process of party conference — over the past three months, timing it with the upcoming 18th party congress next year.

"We enjoy strong internal democracy. All debates are democratically held... All our party members have the right to give their opinion on the party document and reach their views to the party conference. It is meaningless to interpret the debates as group rivalry," said Anil Biswas, the CPI(M) secretary.

The conference at the branch level is over, the local level exercise is in its last stages and the zonal committees are preparing themselves for the commence<243>ment of the same. The State conference is slated for February 2005. The enormity of the task for the leadership can be measured from the fact there are over 28,000 branch committees, 1,575 local committees and 316 zonal committees which make up the Bengal CPI(M).

"Not many parties in the country can rightfully claim to have conducted such a gigantic democratic exercise in such a transparent fashion," says Mr. Biswas.

At different levels of the conference, the discussions relate, among others, to the condition of the party in West Bengal where it has been in office for 27 years, the future of the Indian communist movement in the context of socio, economic and technological changes across the world, and the tasks ahead of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's Government.

The political resolutions to be taken up at the party congress will be published three months before the event.

All party members will have the opportunity to discuss, give opinions and move amendments on them.

Motivated campaign

Mr. Biswas said the Opposition and other non-Left forces had been trying to accuse the CPI(M) of "harbouring anti-socials. As if immoral and unethical activities are carried out within the CPI(M). This campaign is motivated and is aimed at clouding the work carried out by our 2.5 lakh honest and hardworking members," he said.

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