THE 21st Odisha state conference of the CPI(M) was successfully held from January 7-9 in Berhampur. It was inaugurated by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. On January 7, a hugely-attended public meeting was preceded by big colourful processions with red flags, festoons, placards and traditional band from different corners of the city. These processions converged at Ramalingam Tank Road, the venue of the public meeting. Hundreds of adivasis, dalits and toiling people from Ganjam, Gajapati, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Malkangiri joined the rally. People also came from nearby Nayagarh, Khurdha, Puri, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Bhadrak and Balasore districts.
Addressing the large gathering, Yechury said it is an irony that the people of Odisha are poor despite the state having abundant natural resources. When the poor have become poorer, the profits of the rich and big industrialists are increasing in astronomical proportion. The three-and-a-half years of the Narendra Modi government has led to an increase in unemployment, suicide by peasants, and loss of jobs. Steps such as demonetisation and GST have aggravated the economic distress and worsened the misery of the common people. Pre-poll promises of the BJP and Narendra Modi to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks, provide two crore jobs to unemployed youth every year, bring transparency in administration, and provide minimum support price (MSP) for food grains as per the recommendations of the M S Swaminathan Committee have turned to be hoax. Rather, an attempt was being made to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 in favour of the corporates and industrial houses and at the cost of peasants.
Due to demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), about 96 lakh jobs have been lost. Demonetisation was used as an instrument to make black money white. While the big capitalists are getting a bonanza of billions of rupees loan waiver and tax waiver, the poor peasants are denied of such benefits, Yechury said. The government refused to increase the MSP for agricultural products. Nearly 50,000 peasants have committed suicide during the period due to unbearable financial stress. In addition, there is a concerted attack on workers by way of bringing anti-labour amendments to various labour laws, taking away age-old rights of the workers earned through hard-fought struggle of the working class. When there is widespread discontent amongst the peasants, workers and all other sections of the society, the fascistic RSS-controlled BJP is busy in unleashing its Hindutva agenda. Democracy is in peril. Democracy and the constitution are being trampled. Hindutva elements are being planted in all important centres of learning and institutions. Steps are being taken to distort history. In the name of cow protection, Muslims and dalits are being targeted. This situation requires a qualitative charge, Yechury said and called upon the Left, democratic and secular forces to halt the onslaught of the RSS and its wings. Yechury gave the call for a change in policy rather than just a change in the leadership and for that, he urged upon the Party cadre and leaders to take up the cause of the people and reach out to them at their time of need and strengthen the Party in the state. Others who addressed the public meeting include Ali Kishor Patnaik, Janardan Pati and Jagannath Mishra.
At the venue of the conference (Town Hall), named after former state committee member Ram Gopal Rao, the Party flag was hoisted by veteran leader Sivaji Patnaik. Floral tributes were paid at the martyrs’ column by Sitaram Yechury and other leaders. The city of Berhampur wore a new look with red flags and festoons. An exhibition on the Great October Revolution and the formation of the Communist Party in India was organised on the sidelines. A photo exhibition on the role of woman fighters in India’s Freedom Struggle, prepared by the AIDWA, was also held at the conference venue.
The delegates session was attended by 204 delegates and 34 observers. Yechury, after inaugurating the conference, urged upon the cadre to rally the masses under the CPI(M). He called upon the delegates to build a stronger party to fight the neo-liberal economic policies and communalism which, he said, were supplementing each other.
CPI(M) Odisha state secretary Ali Kishor Patnaik presented the political-organisational report. In his introductory speech, he told that the Party developed during the last three years in those areas where local issues of the people had been taken up and continuity of movement was maintained. Strength of the Party has increased in many tribal-dominated districts. The Party has mobilised people against the Modi government’s anti-people measures and against communal violence. Like in other states, the BJP attacked the CPI(M) state party office in Odisha twice. In the state, the Party was facing attack from both the BJP and the BJD, which governs the state. But, despite their physical attack and money power, the CPI(M) has not only retained its hold but also increased its base to some extent in the recently-concluded three-tier panchayat election.
As many as 55 delegates from different districts and fronts participated in the discussion on the report. Later, the state secretary summed up the debate and replied to the queries, and the report was adopted unanimously. A five-member presidium of Janardan Pati, Nirmal Nayak, Ram Chandra Nayak, Sala Marndi and Salomi Minz conducted the conference. A three-member credential committee led by Jahangir Ali and a three-member minutes committee led by Jatin Mohanty were elected for the conference.
According to the credential committee report, 24 women attended the conference as delegates and observers. Biplab Mishra, 24, was the youngest delegate. 88 year-old Sivaji Patnaik, who joined the Party in 1947, was the oldest delegate. 73 of the delegates joined the Party between 2001 and 2017.
The conference elected delegates to the 22nd Party Congress of the CPI(M) to be held in Hyderabad in April. The conference elected a 30-member state committee unanimously. Later, the newly-elected state committee members unanimously re-elected Ali Kishor Patnaik as state secretary. The conference also elected Sivaji Patnaik as a special invitee to the state committee and six others as invitees.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Surjyakanta Mishra, in his concluding remarks, said that the BJP is considering the Communists to be their enemy number one. We are proud of it. Today there is an autocratic, authoritarian and communal government which supports neo-liberal economic policy and is attempting to subvert the constitution and constitutionally set-up institutions. At the same time, it is disregarding our non-aligned foreign policy and working to be a junior partner of the US Imperialism. Moreover, this government is controlled by the fascistic RSS. It does not believe in democracy. The condition of peasantry and agricultural labourers is precarious. Overwhelming number of workers are in unorganised sector and they do not have security of wage and have no social security.
Odisha has a glorious tradition which is thousands of years old. Odisha has a legacy of freedom struggle and its fight against landlordism. The present situation of the country as well as the state is a fertile ground for the Party’s growth. So many spontaneous movements are coming up because the people want to resist the onslaughts of the government. We must intervene in all these struggles. Also, we should give stress on local issues in which we can mobilise maximum people and expand our Party base. Finally, he gave the call to build a strong CPI(M) in Odisha, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
On the occasion of the 21st state conference, 12 veteran personalities from different walks of life including Party veterans were felicitated.
The conference unanimously adopted nine resolutions on Mahanadi water dispute; on unemployment; against communal danger; demanding minimum wage; against labour law amendments; on peasant problems, on unorganised labour; against atrocities on dalits, tribal, women and Minorities; against price rise; and neo-liberal economic policy.
The conference gave a call to collect 30 lakh signatures from 30 districts of the state by February demanding establishment of a tribunal for the distribution of Mahanadi river water, which will be handed over to the prime minister.