THE three-day 21st Assam State Conference of the CPI(M) was held in Tezpur on March 15-17. The conference started with a massive open rally on March 15 at the Collegiate School ground in the heart of Tezpur. Braving scorching heat, about eight thousand people attended the rally which was presided over by CPI(M) state secretariat member Hemen Das. Polit Bureau members S R Pillai and Manik Sarkar and CPI(M) state secretary Uddhab Barman addressed the rally, besides others.
Addressing the gathering, Pillai referred to the distinctively democratic character of CPI(M) which held its conferences from the grassroots to the apex level at regular intervals and engaged the entire membership in a democratic exercise to decide the policies of the Party as well as to elect its leadership at different tiers. This was in sharp contrast to the practice of the bourgeois-landlord parties like BJP and Congress, he added. He lambasted the Modi government at the Centre for its aggressive persuasion of neo-liberal economic policies at the behest of the big corporate entities and its open patronage of communal forces represented by RSS and its affiliated outfits. People have now realised what the Modi government really stands for. It was the big corporates and the RSS who determine the policies of the present government, Pillai said. He also came down heavily on the Congress government in Assam. During its last fourteen years of uninterrupted rule, the Congress pushed the state and its common people to a serious crisis. Noting that there was not an iota of difference between BJP and Congress in regard to economic policies, Pillai called upon the people to build up united struggles against the policies of both BJP and Congress. He also appealed to them to strengthen CPI(M)and the Left and democratic forces as these forces could provide the real alternative to both BJP and Congress and act as bulwark against the communal forces.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, in his hard-hitting speech, said the slogan of ‘Achhe Din’ coined by Narendra Modi and BJP during the Lok Sabha poll campaign has become a cruel joke on the common people of this country. During its 10-month tenure whatever steps the Modi government took brought ‘Acche Din’ only for the big corporates, both indigenous and foreign, and to the rich. The common people were being subjected to increasing onslaughts on their lives and livings. He said the economy of the country was being handed over virtually on a platter to the big corporates and foreign MNCs. The recent Union Budget provided bonanza to the rich and corporates and imposed severe burdens on the common people -- government spending in the social sector and subsidies meant for the common people were drastically reduced. Referring to the increasingly authoritarian proclivities of the Modi government, he said that this government already created a record in issuing ordinances. He also made a scathing criticism of the anti-farmer Land Acquisition Bill, 2015 brought about by the Centre. People had been increasingly getting disillusioned and were coming out in united struggles in larger numbers. But the Modi government has been adding and abetting the communal polarisation carried out by the ‘Sangh Parivar’ in its sinister bid to divide the people, Sarkar said. This posed a serious threat to the secular-democratic character of the Indian State. Sarkar also sharply criticised the Congress government in the state for its dismal failure on all fronts and widespread corruption. He called for uniting all Left and democratic forces and intensifying the class and mass struggles to create a real alternative to both BJP and Congress.
Earlier, Robin Tamuly, secretary of the Reception Committee of the conference, explained the objectives of the meeting. A souvenir tilled ‘Aniruddha’ was also released at the rally by Hem Baruah, the senior most leader of the Party in the district of Sonitpur.
The Delegates’ Session of the conference began in the evening of March 15 at the District Library Auditorium. The session commenced with the hoisting of Party flag by Comrade Hemen Das amidst full throated slogans by large assembly of delegates, observers, volunteers and Party members and sympathisers. This was followed by the programme of placement of floral wreaths on Martyrs’ Column. A presidium consisting of Hemen Das, Satyabati Bhuyan, Deben Bhattacharyya, Purna Boro and Fazlur Rahman presided over the Delegates’ Session. The chairman of the Reception Committee, Jiten Sundi, welcomed the delegates. A total of 351 delegates and observers (325 delegates and 26 observers) including 56 women representing 13,695 Party members in the state attended the Conference.
Inaugurating the Delegates’ Session, S R Pallai made an incisive analysis of the situation prevailing in the international and national arena vis-à-vis the challenges and tasks facing the CPI(M) and the Left forces in the country. Referring to the present international situation, he said the world capitalism was yet to come out of the crisis that engulfed it in 2008. Rather the steps taken by the ruling classes of the advanced capitalist countries have further compounded the crisis. In the name of austerity measures they had been trying desperately to shift the burdens of the crisis on to the shoulders of the common people. This intensified the contradictions between the labour and capital which manifested itself in growing strikes, struggles and agitations of working people in Europe and America. This had impacted the political scenario in many countries as in Greece where Syriza, a Left coalition based on anti-austerity platform, came to power and unfolded huge possibilities for advance of Left and democratic forces. The crisis also engendered the rise of the rightist and fascist forces in different advanced capitalist countries. He pointed out the continued and desperate drive for world hegemony by the US imperialism and the need for strengthening and broadening the anti-imperialist struggle.
Referring to the prevailing situation in the national arena, Pillai said the 16th Lok Sabha election brought about a rightist turn in the Indian Polity. Its dangerous ramifications in the socio-economic and political spheres were already being felt and would be more severely felt in the coming days, he said. The Modi government’s advocacy of the interests of corporate houses and foreign MNCs was more brazen and it was being guided by a rabidly communal organisation like RSS. Consequently, while the attacks on the people’s lives and livelihood intensified, the danger of communal polarisation has been looming large. The secular democratic fabric of the country came under serious attack too. The authoritarian proclivities of the present government also were becoming more pronounced with the passage of time. The communal forces have unleashed a serious onslaught on reason, nationalism and scientific tempers and have been attempting to take the country back to the medieval era. However, Pillai pointed out, the working people have started coming out in larger numbers against the policies of the Modi government. The challenges of the situation could be met only by forging the unity of Left and Democratic Front with a programme that constituted the real alternative to Congress and BJP as well as other bourgeois-landlord parties. This front also would be the bulwark against all hues of communal and divisive forces, he added. Hence, while uniting with other anti-Congress secular parties in the struggle against communal forces, primacy should be given to their task of building LDF, which called for intensification of class and mass struggles, unity of the Left forces and strengthening of the CPI(M). Pillai concluded his inaugural speech with a clarion call to increase the independent activities of the Party and make it stronger in all respects.
Sate secretary Uddhab Barman placed the Draft Political Resolution and the Political-Organisational Report on behalf of the state committee. The Political Resolution made a detailed assessment of the socio-economic and political situation in the state in the backdrop of the present international and national situation. The resolution graphically described with all facts and figures the deterioration the state has suffered in the socio-economic sphere under the Congress rule for the past 14 years. Despite the fact that Assam is endowed with huge natural and human resources that could be utilised for industrialisation, no big industry has come up in the state. Rather several thousand small and medium industries closed there shutters. Similar had been the plight of agriculture. Under the Congress rule only about two percent of the arable land had been irrigated. The recurring problem of flood and erosion had been affecting severely the agriculture and the peasantry. But the government, either in the state or at the Centre, took no effective steps for a permanent solution of the problem. Infrastructure, including power generation and communication, had also been in a very bad shape in the state.
The Political Resolution pointed out that the neo-liberal economic policies pursued by the central and state governments had severely aggravated the problem of economic backwardness of Assam. Widespread corruption and inefficiency at all levels of the Congress government in the state further compounded the problem of backwardness and made the development of the state a far cry. The steps taken by the Modi government like withdrawal of the incentives under NIIPP etc. have increased the deprivations of Assam and the North-East. In such a context, the problems of joblessness and unemployment have assumed explosive dimension leading to frequent social unrest.
The Political Resolution discussed in details all the burning problems of the state and its people including the issues of foreign nationals, big dam, border disputes, autonomous councils, politics of identity, demand for separate states, scheduling of six ethnic groups as ST, problems facing Muslim minorities and tea tribes, activities of the terrorist and secessionist outfits. The resolution noted with concern the activities of RSS-BJP led communal forces that had been making sinister attempts to communally polarise the people of the state. It also discussed the present position of different political parties in the state and laid down the tasks facing the Party. The resolution called for continued opposition to both the Congress and BJP as the policies of both the parties had proved harmful for the state. It laid emphasis on building the unity of Left and democratic forces through intensification of class and mass struggles and united struggle with other secular forces to fight the communal forces. The resolution underlined the paramount need of further strengthening the CPI(M) in all respects in Assam.
The Political-Organisational Report made a self critical review of the Party organisation in the state. It noted with concern that the membership of the Party as well as of some mass organisations and the support base as indicated by the electoral performance of the Party had declined during the period under review. The report criticised the failures of the Party and mass organisations at different levels to build up sustained movement on class and mass issues. The reasons were both objective and subjective. The Organisational Report identified the weaknesses and shortcomings of the Party committees at different levels including the State Committee and State Secretariat and envisaged concrete measures to remove these. The Report noted that one positive feature in the Party organisation in Assam was that the percentage of working class in the Party membership registered an increase. The working class (23.38 pc) along with agricultural labourers (11.06 pc) and poor peasants (40.94 pc) constituted 75.38 pc of total membership of the Party. The report laid down year-long programmes to streamline the Party organisation and overcome its weaknesses.
Fifty-seven delegates took part in the discussion on the draft papers. The discussion reflected the spirit of criticism and self-criticism and the concern of the Party members to strengthen the Party and improve its functioning at different levels. All the burning issues of the state and its people vis-à-vis the intervention of the Party at different tiers came out in the discussion. The delegates also discussed the challenges posed by the communal forces and the politics of identity to the expansion of the Left and democratic movement in the state. They, however, expressed the confidence that in the present situation when the people of the state have been increasingly getting disillusioned about Congress and BJP, possibilities have opened up for advance of the Left and democratic forces. They laid utmost importance on increasing independent activities and strength of the Party.
Intervening in the debate, Manik Sarkar congratulated the delegates for their contributions in the discussion. Primarily confining his deliberation to the organisational sphere, he said the discussion of the delegates revealed enthusiasm to further strengthen the Party. This was a good sign. He said the Party should prepare itself in every respect to fill up the current political vacuum in the state. The ruling Congress Party stood totally discredited. The people of the state have been increasingly disillusioned about BJP because of its policies. AGP also was not in a position to make a comeback. In such a situation, if our Party and mass organisations could increase its mass activities and independent strength and mobilise Left and democratic forces in increasing struggles against neo-liberal economic policies and communal forces it would be in a position to become a political force to reckon with in the state. But for that the organisational weaknesses at different tiers must be removed with urgency. He identified a number of such weaknesses and pointed out the ways to remove these.
Uddhab Barman summed up the discussions and clarified many points raised by the delegates. He concluded his address with the assertion that the Party in Assam would surely surge forward with the determined and collective initiatives of all the members. Both the reports were adopted by the conference. The conference also adopted a number of resolutions on the burning problems of the state.
The report of the Credential Committee submitted in the conference revealed that out of 351 delegates and observers, 64 belonged to the working class and 92 were poor peasants. Number of SC delegates was 13, STs 37, OBCs 102, tea tribes 18, Muslims 43, Christians 5 and linguistic minorities 53. One delegate joined the Party in the 1947-63 period, 44 in 1964-76, 199 in 1977-91, 81 in 1992-2008, and 26 after 2008.
The conference unanimously elected a 50-member state committee with five permanent invitees and three special invitees. It also elected a three-member State Control Commission. The newly elected state committee, in its first meeting presided over by S R Pillai, elected unanimously Deben Bhattacharyya as the state secretary. The conference also elected a 16-member delegation and two observers for the 21st Party Congress to be held in Visakhapattanam. In the afternoon of March 17, the 21st Assam State Conference came to end to the strains of the Internationale.