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Post Lok Sabha poll rout, CPI-M set to replace old guard with fresh blood in West Bengal

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Times Now
12th August, 2019 16:02 IST

Kolkata: Over two months after its worst-ever poll performance in Bengal, the CPI(M) is set for a major overhaul of its organisation in the state by replacing the old guard with new blood at all levels to "send out a message".

The CPI(M)-led Left Front, which ruled Bengal for an uninterrupted three decades since 1977, drew a blank in the 2019 election and lost deposits on 40 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Facing strong challenges from the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the latest entrant in Bengal politics, the Left party has organised two state committee meetings since the election results in May showed its hold waning in the state.

At the meetings, the party concluded that organisational change should happen not only at the grassroots and mid levels but also at the top to "send out a message" to the electorate. The Left party is also trying to reach out the youth through social media tools.

"The party is going through an extraordinary situation and it calls for extraordinary measures. Earlier, TMC was the only threat. Now we are facing dual challenges from the TMC and the BJP," CPI(M) politburo member Hannan Mollah told PTI.

"We need to bring in more youth at the leadership level who can lead mass movements against communalism and revive the organisation," Mollah said.

According to CPI(M) sources, there is a speculation that the 70-year-old Surya Kanta Mishra, who has often expressed desire to step down as the party's state secretary, could be replaced with someone comparatively "more young and agile".

"Suryada had expressed desire to pave way for young leaders. Nothing has been decided as of now. But by the time we have the next state conference, we can have a new state secretary who is more young and agile," said a senior CPI(M) leader, on the condition of anonymity.

By August 15, all district committees have been asked to submit their proposal on revival of the party's organisation. Those suggestions would be looked into and a final draft would be prepared, to be placed before the central committee for approval, he said.

"We have lost our vote share to TMC and BJP but it does not mean it is a permanent phenomenon. To reverse the tide, you need a strong and youth-driven organisation. The average age group of 70 per cent population of the country is around 40 years but the age group of CPI(M) leaders and workers in Bengal is around 70 years. We need to change it," the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader said.

The Left Front secured only 6.8 per cent votes in 2019 general election, a drop of about 17 per cent when compared to the previous parliamentary polls.

"The age bracket of the leaders in the state committee needs to be brought down from 60. The same would happen for district committees, where the age bracket would be brought down from 50 and area committees, where it would be brought down from 40.

"By the time the next state conference takes place in 2021, the shift in the age gap would be complete," he said.

Another CPI(M) leader said it was also decided at the meetings that the party would look into the number of members in each committee and if needed, would cut the size down. Though the party has assessed its performance since 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the reasons were not identified properly and steps to check erosion in vote share were not implemented.

"The reasons behind this inability are manifold. But one of the major reasons is presence of inactive and aged leaders. So it has been decided that the average age group of all the committees will be brought down to infuse fresh blood," said a senior state committee leader.

The CPI(M) has launched a digital initiative "Bondhu Hoye Hath Barao" (extend your arm of friendship), which aims to attract the youth to volunteer in the party to counter the aggressive social media campaign of the BJP and the TMC in the state.

"The secular fabric of our state is under threat due to competitive communalism practised by the TMC and the BJP, and social media is an important tool used by them. We want to use the same social media to counter those sinister designs and protect the communal harmony of the state," the state committe leader said. 

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