SFI lost 5.5 lakh members in West Bengal
Dissolution of JNU-SFI sparked inner party rebellion in CPM
Asim Kumar Mitra
While many people are busy discussing the failings of the present government in West Bengal, CPM is busy reorganising its own cadre-base as there has been tremendous erosion in its number over the period. It is a well known fact that CPM is used to draw its cadres from among the members of its students’ wing known as ‘Students’ Federation of India (SFI)’. But this time, especially after the last assembly election of 2011, there has been a reverse swing and lakhs of its members have fled away from the party. This has been one of the main reasons why the CPM has been compelled to call off its declared industrial strike last month for the first time in their agitation history.
Hit from within at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the CPM’s student wing SFI has also suffered in Bengal. The downslide has been reflected in the organisation’s primary membership. “Membership enrolment fell by 5.5 lakhs in West Bengal,” said SFI state secretary Sayandeep Mitra. Mitra was quick to put the blame on the attacks by TMC Chhatra Parishad as a reason for the fall.
The fall has been recorded particularly in districts like West Midnapore, Nadia and Howrah. “We are now holding 70 college unions. In the past one year, we have lost control over 140. In the state there are around 305 college unions. We had 12.5 lakh membership, which is now reduced to 7,11,220,” Mitra said. Some of the SFI strongholds like Bardhaman Raj College, Jaipuria College and Asutosh College have come under the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) control.
CPM is very much annoyed with the reducing number of membership of their different front organisations including the SFI. The CPM has now chalked out a plan to revamp their student wing SFI first as they are convinced, over the years, that if they are not able to attract young people from their school and college level, recruitment for the party will be hit by stumble blocks and this would demoralise the party cadres. Hence they have planned to bring forward Ms. Madhuja Sen Roy, an M.Phil with a good educational background as president of state branch of Students Federation of India. This is for the first time in the history of SFI that a woman is being elevated to the top post of the organisation. At the same time they are bringing Debajyoti Das, an M.Tech. as the secretary of the state SFI. It has been specifically claimed by the present leadership of CPM that formerly the SFI leaders’ age, on an average, has been forty years, now they have reduced it to thirty years. On all India level also SFI leadership is going to be reshuffled. Active consideration is going on to replace Tapas Sinha from the post of general secretary and C Ramakrishna from the post of president of SFI.
Unable to get the required numbers to launch an effective offensive against the rebel JNU-SFI that has got the go-ahead from Left intellectual and former Bengal finance minister Ashok Mitra, and the Naxalite AISA that controls the JNU-SU, all India leaders of thee SFI are of late trying to concentrate at the Centre.
In this connection, it is worth mentioning here the report published by Times of India on 22nd August, 2012 saying, “In a secret directive to its state units including West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, SFI leaders have asked the organisers to identify potential SFI activists and supporters and convince them take the JNU entrance test in 2013. In a bid to reinforce the organisational strength that crumbled from within after student leaders led by Anagha Ingole, V. Lenin Kumar dumped the SFI to float JNU-SFI. The rebels enjoy at the patronage of their alumni Jico Dasgupta, P. K. Anand, Roshan Kishore and expelled member of the CPM central committee’s research cell Prasenjit Bose.”
SFI general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee, in protest to the TOI reporting said: “There is no such circular. However, this has been a tradition that many SFI activists and supporters from across states came to JNU to do their post-graduate studies and take part in student politics under the SFI banner. This is in conformity with the SFI slogan –study and struggle.” He, however, admitted that the organisation has resolved to strengthen the SFI centre in Delhi. As part of the plan, five to six central committee members will be sent Delhi from across the states, to give support to the SFI activists in Delhi and also extend support to such efforts in virgin areas outside Delhi. Banerjee further said, “The names will be finalised at SFI’s all India conference to be held at Madurai.”
However, the whole situation has become very much complicated as an open rebellion has taken place in CPM after the dissolution of the prevailing SFI unit at JNU. This has sparked a debate among the left intellectuals in Delhi and Bengal and also among the party ranks. SFI leadership asserts that the way CPM is trying to sort out the problem will yield no positive result. Senior CPM leaders in Delhi admit that the problem is more than a mere organisational setback.