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Review report on 1996 General Elections by CPI(M) - The Economic Times

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on 1996 General Elections
(Adopted in the Central Committee Meeting: July 27-29, 1996)

The elections to the 11th Lok Sabha have resulted, as widely expected, =
in no single party or formation winning a majority. The election results =
are notable for the decisive defeat suffered by the since the first gener=
al elections in 1952. It has also led, disturbingly, to the emergence of =
the BJP as the single largest party, though well short of a majority. The=
non-Congress, non-BJP secular parties constitute a significant bloc in =
the Lok Sabha. In the present correlation of forces within parliament, =
the regional parties have acquired a prominent role given the fact that =
no national party is in a position to dominate or muster a majority.

The election results reveal that the decline in the Congress(I)'s mass =
base which began from the 1989 Lok Sabha elections continues. The 1989 =
and 1991 elections saw the end of the single party dominance of the Congr=
ess. The current Lok Sabha elections have led to a sharp decrease of 67 =
percent its vote and its seats coming down to 142, the lowest ever in the=
history of the party. This erosion of support is a direct result of the =
impact of the reactionary economic policies initiated by the Rao governme=
nt, its compromising approach to the communal forces and the high level =
corruption which it spawned. The infighting and revolts within the Congre=
ss contributed to the debacle.

Such a comprehensive defeat of the Congress should have paved the way for=
the advance to the Left, democratic and secular forces. However, it is =
the reactionary BJP with its communal platform which gained the most from=
the Congress's decline.

Though it could not substantially increase its voting percentage (it has =
registered only a marginal increase of 0.7% from 20.1% to 20.8%), it has =
won 160 seats and emerged for the first time as the single largest party =
in the Lok Sabha. This allowed it to stake its claim to form the governm=
ent. Alongwith its allies the Shiv Sena, Samata Party and the Haryana =
Vikas Party and its post-poll ally the Akalis, the formation led by the =
BJP has a strength of 194. Caste identity and mobilisation on sub-caste =
basis has led to casteism playing a widespread role in electoral mobilisa=

The combination representing the third force which comprised the Janata =
Dal, the Left parties and the Samajwadi Party did not fare as well as we =
expected. It got 113 seats. Alongwith the regional parties which were =
allied to the Left, like the AGP aid the TDP, the total comes to 134. =
The main setback was in Bihar where the JD, Left combination lost nearly =
half the seats held previously.

The success of the DMK and the TMC which defeated the Congress and its =
ally the AIADMK in Tamilnadu gave it a bloc of 37 seats. These two partie=
s alongwith the TDP and the AGP represent a substantial force who came =
to play -an important role in the post-election scenario.

The elections were held at a crucial time for the country. As the central=
committee's report on political developments adopted in January 1996 at =
Madras had stated

"As the crucial Lok Sabha elections, to be held in April, draw near, it =
is clear that the country is faced with four major problems. They are: =
(1) the disastrous impact of the imperialist dictated economic policies =
endangering economic sovereignty and ruining the lives of the people; (2)=
the communal danger and its divisive impact on national unity; (3) the =
separatist movements which enable imperialist penetration; (4) corrosive =
corruption and criminalisation of politics.

"The policies of Narasimha Rao government and the communal politics of =
the BJP both representing different facets of the ruling classes are main=
ly responsible for the aggravation of these problems. How the four challe=
nges are met politically will determine the future course of direction =
for the country........... In line with the Party Congress direction, our=
efforts have been geared towards the forging of an effective third alter=
native which can electorally contest and defeat the Congress(I) and the =

It is in the light of this understanding that we should review the result=
s of the elections and our party's role and intervention in the electoral=

Congress Defeat

The defeat of the Congress represents the continuation and intensificatio=
n of the trend witnessed during the assembly elections in some of the maj=
or states held in the intervening period. The successive defeats of the =
Congress in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Maharashtra and Gujarat wer=
e a precursor to the defeat in the general elections. The defeat in the =
Lok Sabha elections represents a rejection of the policies pursued by the=
Congress government particularly due to the adverse impact of its econom=
ic policies on the people, its compromise with the communal forces and =
high level corruption. The Congress party not only lost the majority it =
had acquired by defections after the 1991 Lok Sabha elections but its vot=
e has got eroded in most of the states. Only in Orissa, Gujarat, Himachal=
Pradesh and to a smaller extent in West Bengal, did it gain in terms of =
percentage of votes. Its performance has been disastrous in Uttar Prades=
h, Bihar, Maharashtra, M.P., Tamilnadu and Punjab. in the state assembly =
elections held along with the parliament elections it lost power in Assam=
, Haryana and Kerala where it had state governments.

The election results show that the party continues to be spurned by the =
minorities by and large, except in some areas where the BJP threat exists=
and it is the only other choice. Even here when it came to the-question=
of voting for the Congress as the lesser evil, the turn out was low amon=
g the minorities. The squeezing of the poor due to the policies of liber=
alisation have led to large scale desertion of the rural and urban poor =
from the Congress. In states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punj=
ab, the BSP has severely eroded the traditional scheduled caste base of =
the Congress. The loss of the largest number of seats from Tamilnadu, is =
of course due to the wave against Jayalalitha, with whom the party had =

Though the Congress(I) suffered a severe defeat in the elections, it will=
be wrong to write it off as a political force. It is still the biggest =
national political party with nearly 30 percent vote with an all-India =
spread. Further it has come second in 247 seats.


The BJP has gained over 40 seats from its 1991 tally to emerge as the lar=
gest single party. However, this has been achieved not due to any-substan=
tial increase in its voting percentage which has gone up only by less tha=
n 1 percent according to preliminary estimates. The main gain of the BJP =
have been either due to the division in the Congress as in Madhya Pradesh=
where it increased its seats by 15; or due to the strength accruing by =
alliances like in Bihar with Samata Party and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtr=
a. These three states together gave the BJP an increase of 41 seats.

But the growth of the BJP's influence both in terms of its spread to new =
areas and its consolidation in its strong bases must not be underestimate=
d. The BJP has consolidated its position in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Mad=
hya Pradesh and Delhi which are its traditional areas. It has made new =
gains in Assam and Orissa where its voting percentage has gone up substan=
tially (16.3 percent and 13.3 percent respectively) it has also slightly =
improved it percentage in Gujarat though it lost seats there. In Haryana,=
and Tripura it has improved its votes tally. In the North it is only in =
Punjab and Himachal that it has not been able to improve on its 1991 perf=
ormance. However, it is in the south that it has failed to do well. In =
Karnataka where it has its strongest base in the south, its growth was =
contained and its vote percentage reduced by 2 percent. Similarly in Andh=
ra Pradesh also it decreased. In Tamilnadu and Kerala it registered a sma=
ll increase.

Taken overall, it is a fact that the BJP is the only national party which=
has made steady advance since the 1989 elections. In that sense the outc=
ome of the 1996 elections must be seen as a continuation of this trend. =
Its support has grown in its major states at the expense of the Congress =
where a combination of anti-Congress popular discontent, penetration of =
the communal ideology and skilful organisational work backed by the RSS, =
have together contributed to the BJP's growth. to project its Hindutva =
platform, the BJP campaigned on issued like Article 370 on Kashmir, unifo=
rm civil code and infiltration from Bangladesh. At the same time it took =
up the economic issues and corruption which alienated the people from the=
Congress to cash in on the mass discontent even though its basic economi=
c policy is no different.

It is not sufficient to see the BJP's growing influence purely in terms =
of the instant impact of the communal appeal on the electorate. Underlyin=
g the penetration of the communal ideology is the vast organisational wor=
k which is being undertaken by the various outfits of the RSS. The Sarasw=
ati Sishu Vidhyalayas (kindergartens) and other educational institutions =
run by the RSS are an expanding network in many states; behind its succes=
s in South Bihar which has a big adivasi population there is the work of =
an organisation like the Vanavasi Kalyan Parishad, an RSS outfit which =
has been working primarily to counter the influence of the Christian miss=
ionaries. It is through this organisation that the RSS has made inroads =
among the adivasis in Bihar, M.P., Rajasthan and now in Orissa. It is sig=
nificant that the BJP is penetrating most in Orissa in the back ward trib=
al areas using both the feudal/royal politicians and the work of the RSS.=
The RSS is also assisting the BJP to organise people on caste and sub-ca=
ste lines. Holding of caste conferences, organisations of different sub-c=
astes, taking up their specific problems, ensuring that tickets are distr=
ibuted to the prominent people in these communities, are all planned by =
the RSS in order to widen the social base of the BJP. These type of activ=
ities are very evident in states like U.P. where the BJP gets the schedul=
ed castes. Everywhere, the BJP as a classic reactionary party seeks to =
divert the discontent generated by the bourgeois-landlord system into div=
isive channels of communal and caste consciousness.

Apart from conducting the anti-communal political campaign and ideologica=
l struggle, it is necessary to understand how the RSS-BJP combination wor=
kers and concretely analyse which sections it is penetrating. This work =
must be undertaken by the Party committees if their influence is to be =
countered and out work in these areas developed.

The Third

The third force consisted of the combination of the Janata Dal, Left part=
ies and the Samajwadi party. This combination was forged after a protract=
ed struggle and a long delay. The main reason being the difficulties in =
bringing together the Janata Dal, and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Prades=
h. Their alliance was eventually forged only at the end of March, practic=
ally on the eve of tile elections. This led to a delay in projecting this=
combination and also in preparing and issuing a joint appeal. The Janat=
a Dal has its strength confined only to three states, Bihar, Karnataka =
and Orissa. Its maximum number of MPs were from Bihar in 1991. This tim=
e, the Janata Dal strength went down from 32 to 22 in Bihar and the JD =
and allies could get only 26 seats out of the total of 54. In Orissa it =
lost further ground and won only 4 out of the 20 seats. It is only in =
Karnataka that the Janata Dal could improve its position significantly. =
The Left parties could only maintain their position, though there was a =
marginal decrease in the total strength from 56 to 54. Thus the third =
force could only acquire the third position after the BJP and the Congres=

The other parties with which the CPI(M) and Left allied did well in the =
elections. In Andhra Pradesh, the TDP (Naidu group) won 16 seats and poll=
ed 34.2 percent of the votes thereby establishing itself as the main TDP =
party, the Laxmi Parvathi group was routed and failed to win a single sea=
t. The Congress could win 22 out of the 42 seats despite a decrease in =
its vote percent of 4.7 percent only because of the TDP and Left. votes =
split by the Laxmi Parvathi group. In Assam, the AGP and its ally CPI(M)=
won 6 out of the 14 seats while the Congress could win only 5. In Tamiln=
adu the gamble by Narasimha Rao in aligning with the AIADMK against the =
wishes of the state leadership led to the combination of the DMK and TMC =
emerging. This alliance became the focus for the anti- Jayalalitha discon=
tent and it was able to sweep the elections. The DMK-TMC-CPI alliance =
won all the 39 seats in the state.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP won 52 out of 85 seats getting around 34% of =
the vote. The non-BJP secular vote was sharply divided between the SP =
and the BSP. If the votes of the SP-JD-Left and the BSP are combined the=
n the BJP would have lost 35 out of the 52 seats it won. An important fea=
ture of the UP elections is the increase in the BSP vote which polled 20.=
6 percent of the total vote.

Minorities Trend

The minorities have generally voted against the Congress wherever there =
was a viable secular alternative against the BJP. It is only in those =
areas where the fight was between the BJP and Congress that the minoritie=
s chose the latter. However, in these places also there was manifest rel=
uctance to vote for the Congress among the general Muslim voters with a =
large section preferring to stay away from voting. Another feature notic=
ed was the low turnout of the Muslim members in states where they had no =
confidence that there was a effective electoral force to defeat the BJP =
In Bombay- Bhiwandi in Maharashtra and in many places in UP, Rajasthan =
and M.P the low turnout of the Muslims can be ascribed to their inability=
to see a strong third alternative to bank upon. The split of the secula=
r forces between the SP and BSP was one such reason. The inability of the=
Party to attract Muslim votes in a substantial number in many places whe=
re we contested is- a matter of concern. The consciousness of the minorit=
y community is focused mainly on their security and the Party's links wit=
h the Muslim masses are still very weak. The growth of fundamentalist =
forces within the community, as a reaction to majority communalism, and =
due to patronage from abroad, also acts as a barrier. We continue to negl=
ect the special steps necessary to be taken to forge the Party and mass =
organisations' links with the Muslim masses. This shortcoming has to be =

Our tactical line
or the elections

The political resolution of the 15th Congress had directed that "The CPI(=
M) and the Left must try for an understanding with the secular opposition=
parties to present an effective alternative to the Congress and the BJP.=
The Left alone cannot, in the present situation defeat both these forces=
. The secular opposition parties have though constrained by the absence =
of a coherent programme, an important role in projecting the immediate =
electoral alternative." It is on the basis of this understanding that the=
Central Committee of the party worked out the line of mobilising all the=
Left, democratic and secular opposition forces for forging a wider unity=
to present a third alternative to the Congress and the BJP. The Central =
Committee worked out its concrete electoral tactics after assessing the =
situation prevailing after the assembly elections in some of the major =
states. Though the Janata Dal-National Front was in disarray, the growing=
discontent of the people against the Congress resulted in the victory =
of the Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh and the Janata Dal in Karnataka and=
Bihar assembly elections. This opened the possibility for a third force=
comprising the National Front, Left and their allies. Given the situati=
on, our Party decided that the efforts to forge the third alternative sho=
uld go beyond the framework of the old National Front-JD, Left combinatio=
n. There were other major parties like the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Prad=
esh, the AGP in Assam and some other regional force who should be brought=
together to forge the widest unity. Based on the understanding formulat=
ed in the July CC meeting of 1995, our Party leadership continuously work=
ed for the alliance between the Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party and the =
Left parties in Uttar Pradesh in view of the vital importance of the stat=
e in the fight against the BJP. Our Party leadership intervened to see =
that the Janata Dal finally adopted a position to facilitate such a wider=
unity. However, the efforts for such a wider unity were protracted and =
came at such a late stage that the projection of a third alternative coul=
d not be achieved in the manner we wished.

While we were making these efforts the split in the Telugu Desam in Andhr=
a Pradesh was a setback. It resulted in divergent views between the Left=
on the one hand and the J.D with the latter deciding to go alongwith the=
Laxmi Parvati group. Our Party adopted essentially correct tactics in =
relation to the complex situation that arose in Andhra Pradesh. We contin=
ued to appeal for unify to fight the Congress while deciding to ally with=
the majority group of the TDP led by Chandrababu Naidu. The election res=
ults have vindicated our assessment.

In Assam after discussions in the Central Committee and the state committ=
ee, we decided to have an electoral understanding with the AGP for the =
first time, taking into account the fact that the AGP had changed some =
of its old positions against the minorities and keeping in mind the neces=
sity to prevent an alliance between the AGP and the BJP. Our success in =
working out correct tactics in Assam resulted in the AGP being brought =
within the framework for wider secular unity and in enabling the defeat =
of the Congress in the state. In Bihar, Karnataka and Orissa, despite var=
ious problems, we finally arrived at an understanding about seats with =
the Janata Dal even though Biju Patnaik in Orissa and Laloo Prasad in Bih=
ar were adopting a negative approach to the question of allotting us a =
reasonable number of seats. In Maharashtra, the CPI, CPI(M) and P.W.P =
which had formed a Left alliance was able to have a wider understanding =
with the Janata Dal, R.P.I., Kamgar Aghadi and the Samajwadi Party. In =
Punjab, the CPI() and the CPI decided to fight the elections jointly as =
they were against any alliance with the Akalis.

These steps represent a degree of success in drawing together a number =
of secular bourgeois parties and allies so that the third alternative cou=
ld be widened and strengthened. However, such a combination was forged =
on the eve of the elections. A joint appeal was formulated only after the=
elections were announced and hence it could not be projected effectively=
as a cohesive alternative. Given the past experience of the people with=
such alliances at the national level, requisite confidence could not be =
created that it would be a stable entity. Even the alliance between the =
JD and SP led to a revolt in the shrunken U.P. Janata Dal with a number =
of its activists leaving the party. In such a situation, despite the suc=
cess of the combination in states like Karnataka, Assam and partially in =
Andhra Pradesh and the Left success in its three states, the overall perf=
ormance could not reach the level of being able to outpace the BJP and =
the Congress.

In Tamilnadu, our Party could not go with the DMK after it became clear =
that it was keeping its options open for an understanding with the congre=
ss and playing down its opposition to the Congress government's policies.=
We allied with the MDMK and the Janata Dal. The DMK on the eve of the =
elections made a public offer to the Congress expressing its willingness =
to have an under standing if it breaks with the AIADMK. The overwhelming=
majority of the state unit of the Congress was also prepared for this. =
However, Narasimha Rao' decided at the last moment to go alongwith Jayal=
alitha and her party thereby sparking off a major revolt which led to the=
formation of the Tamil Maanila Congress. The unparalleled record of cor=
ruption and misrule of Jayalalitha led to a massive upsurge to which all =
opposition parties had contributed. But the combination of the DMK-TMC =
which was also supported by Rajnikant became the focus for the massive =
anti-Jayalalitha mass sentiment. This resulted in a big sweep for the =
DMK-TMC alliance. Our combination and other porties got completely squeez=
ed out.

Reviewing the party's line in Tamilnadu we cannot attributed any mistake =
in our decision not to go with the DMK, given the fact that till the last=
moment, the DMK was prepared to have an understanding with the Congress.=
With such an approach of the DMK, our Party could not have compromised =
its position by committing to any alliance with it.

Our Party's

The CPI(M) and the Left-led alliance won the elections in West Bengal, =
Kerala and Tripura. In the assembly elections in West Bengal and Kerala,=
the Left Front and the LDP were victorious. But overall, the Party coul=
d not increase its strength in the Lok Sabha.

The CPI(M) contested 76 seats including independents supported by the Par=
ty. We have won 33 seats (including 1 independent) According to prelimin=
ary estimates the Party has polled 6.2 percent of the total valid votes =
which is the same as in the 1991 elections. The Party's gains were in =
Tripura where we won both the seats with big margins; in Kerala where we =
held 4 seats previously we were able to win 6 this time including one ind=
ependent supported by us; in West Bengal, we have won 23 which is less =
by 4 from the previous tally of 27. We have retained the sitting Barpeta=
scat in Assam. We have won a new seat Khamman in Andhra Pradesh but lost=
the sitting Miryalguda seat. We have lost sitting seats in Nawadah (Bih=
ar); Bhubaneshwar (Orissa) and Wardha (Maharashtra).

West Bengal

In West Bengal the assembly elections were held alongwith the Lok Sabha =
polls. The Left Front has been voted back to office with a two-thirds =
majority for an unprecedented 5th successive term. The CPI(M) has won =
150 seats in the assembly while the Left Front has won 245. The Congress=
improved its strength to 82 compared to 43 in 1991. The Left Front poll=
ed 49.3 percent of the vote this time which is 0.5 percent more than in =
the 1991 elections. The Congress(I) vote went up by 3.2 percent while =
the BJP vote declined by 4.9 percent. In the Lok Sabha polls the Left Fro=
nt vote was marginally less than its assembly percentage while the Congre=
ss vote is marginally more than its assembly percentage. The BJP vote has=
substantially declined by 4.9 percent. The bulk of this vote has gone =
to the Congress which has tilted the balance in favour of the Congress =
in many marginal seats.

The fact that the Left Front won a two-thirds majority and improved its =
percentage over 1991 after being in government for nearly 20 years is a =
significant and noteworthy achievement. Despite the negative factors whic=
h accumulated after years of office in a system which is controlled by =
the ruling class at the Centre and despite the hostility of the media and=
the reactionary Circles, it is no small achievement to retain the people=
s confidence. The Party and the Left alliance led by it has come out suc=
cessful in the electoral struggle and enhanced its Prestige all over the =
country. The West Bengal State Committee Organised an intensive political=
campaign in a planned manner from October 1995 itself ranging from group=
meetings to district rallies. 12 pamphlets were published with an averag=
e sale of 3 lakh copies each. The Ganashakti also played an important rol=
e in the campaign.

At the same time, we should note the weakness and shortcomings. The revi=
ew of the state committee pinpoints some of these factors such as instanc=
es of corruption, difficulties in the health, education and rural electri=
fication departments, flouting of guidelines on the functioning of local =
bodies and so on. The alienation of the urban middle class due to the =
some of the above factors and the discontent among the educated unemploye=
d youth have eroded the Party's support in the urban areas. While the =
bulk of the working class and the Muslim minorities have voted with the =
Left, some degree of erosion is visible in certain areas. In some of the =
industrial areas of Calcutta, Hooghly, Howrah and 24 Parganas, the review=
notes the reduction in support among the workers. We must investigate =
why there was some erosion of support among the Muslim masses in some pla=
ces particularly in the urban areas. Problems of the Muslim minorities =
regarding employment and education may have been utilised by the Congress=
to make inroads in certain pockets of Muslim minorities.


The victory of the LDF in the Kerala assembly and parliament election is =
a significant contribution to the Left's electoral performance. In the =
assembly, the CPI(M) has won 44 seats and the LDF has got an absolute maj=
ority winning 8O seats. In the Lok Sabha from a tally of 4 for the LDF =
in 1991, this time the LDF won 10 seats with the CPI(M) winning 6. In ter=
ms of percentage of votes the total percentage of votes Polled came down=
this time its Kerala by 2.4 percent. This led to the LDF percentage comi=
ng down by 1.1 percent while the UDF percentage came down by 4.4 Percent.=
The difference between the LDF and the UDF votes is only 1,68,690 (i.e. =
1.15 percent). In the Lok Sabha elections, the UDF got 0.75 percent vote=
s more than the LDF. The LDF won because of the popular discontent again=
st the UDF rule which resulted in deterioration in the people's living =
standards- due to price rise and unemployment, state taxes in the industr=
ial and agricultural fronts, privatisation of education, corruption and =
growing atrocities on women. There was also disunity among the opponents=
of the LDF. The three way division in the League vote, the opposition =
of the Nair Service Society and a section of the SNDP and Dheevara Sabha =
contributed to the erosion of the UDF strength. In pursuing our tactical=
line, the Party had no truck with the communal parties. However, in a =
few places known INL persons were put up as independents whom we supporte=
d. This was not in conformity with the approach to the INL decided for =
the elections.

It must also be examined whether the independent projection of the Party'=
s political line and policies have been sufficiently undertaken. This =
is connected to the fact that for a considerable period of time the expan=
sion of the mass base of the Party has been marking time. The electoral =
division of seats in the LDF has remained stationary over the decades whe=
reby our Party cannot contest or win a majority of the seats.

The election review of the Kerala state committee notes that we have not =
been able to make any substantial headway in winning the masses following=
the UDF or increasing our votes among the new sections. The review stat=
es: "Compared to 1991, in 1996, the LDF got only 34,172 votes more this =
time when the increase of 4,17,246 in polled votes is considered. This =
shows that our mass base has not been broadened inspite of the favourable=
situation. What the voting figures have shown is that the innumerable =
agitation's we have conducted during the last five years and the large =
number of magnificent struggles conducted by various class amid mass orga=
nisations with many a sacrifice did not succeed in making subsstantial =
change in the correlation of forces". The review further points out the =
organisational weaknesses of the Party which can be major factor in our =
inability to translate the favourable political situation into our increa=
sed electoral influence. The unhealthy inner-Party organisational situati=
on marked by groupism for some time in Kerala has weakened the organisati=
on and its live links with the masses. An intensive political- ideologica=
l campaign and steps to remove the ills plaguing the organisation have =
to be taken up if we have to consolidate and advance further the Party =
and the Left 'orces in the state. Special attention has to be paid for =
planning political-ideological campaigns among the minorities by the Part=


In Tripura, our Party has won both the seats polling more than 50 percent=
of the vote. In West Tripura we polled 50.4 percent and in East Tripura=
54%. These results reflect our success in consolidating the political =
influence gained in the resent period after the assembly elections of 199=
3. The elections were conducted in a period when there is a serious threa=
t to the ethnic unity of the tribal and non-tribal people. Our Party and=
the Left had to launch a big political campaign against the tribal extre=
mes and Bengali chauvinists to defend communal amity. The break up of =
the Congress(I)-TUJS alliance contributed further to our success. The los=
s of support among middle classes in the sub-divisional centres which was=
seen also during the municipal elections has been noted by the state com=
mittee. The extremist attacks have contributed to a sense of insecurity =
among the Bengali middle classes which has been cashed in by the Congress=
with its anti- tribal stance. Our government's performance has to be =
reviewed to see how the causes for their alienation can be removed. The =
BJP's vote has gone up and it was able to get 6.5 percent of the vote. =
Tackling the BJP by effective political campaign must be paid attention =
to. The Party will have to continue to pay close attention to the problem=
s of achieving ethnic unity and to politically mobilise the people to be =
vigilant against all provocation's.

Apart from these three strong states, the electoral performance of the =
Party in the rest of the country is generally unsatisfactory. There are =
some exceptions like our performance in Khamman in Andhra Pradesh. Howev=
er, in most places, we have not been able to break new ground or gain suf=
ficient electoral support. The main feature is of stagnation in our elect=
oral base or in some places even decline.

Hindi Region

The electoral position of the Party in the Hindi speaking states should =
be of particular concern. In Bihar, in the two seats that we contested =
this time, just as in 1991, the votes polled have come down substantially=
. The gains made by the BJP-Samata alliance overall represents a reactio=
nary shift. The discontent engineered by the Laloo Prasad government's =
misrule and the casteist approach are the main causes for the negative =
reaction. The Left as a whole has got eroded in Bihar and the sharp pola=
risation is effecting the strong basis of the Left parties too. The CPI =
which is the biggest Left party in Bihar has lost four out of the 8 seats=
it had and the CPI(M) has lost its only sitting seat.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Left as a whole has been marginalised. The CPI whi=
ch has been the stronger party has been in progressive decline and for =
the first time it got a lesser voting percentage than the CPI(M) with the=
two parties together polling only 1 percent of the total vote contesting=
four seats. The CPI(M) in its two seats could improve its overall vote =
compared to 1991, polling nearly 3 lakh votes. In Varanasi we got 1.5 =
lakh votes and in Kanpur 1.46 lakh votes. But in both these seats which =
are predominantly urban, the BJP hold has further strengthened.

In Rajasthan, we contested only one scat, Sikar, where we got 56,000 vote=
s. We could not contest the other seat, Bikaner as our candidate decided=
to withdraw on the last date of withdrawal without consulting the Party.=
In this scat, last time we had polled over 80,000 votes. In Madhya Pra=
desh, the Party contested Rewa scat. Here again the acute caste division=
and polarisation led to our candidate polling only 12,000 votes. In Har=
yana we contested a parliament scat for the first time in Hissar and our =
candidate who could not get the symbol due to a technical flaw polled a =
respectable 56,000 vote. In Himachal Pradesh too we contested the Lok =
Sabha scat for the first time (Shimla, SC seat) and polled 19,600 votes. =
In Delhi also we contested for the first time a Lok Sabha scat, Karol =
Bagh, and polled over 11,000 votes.

Other States

In Andhra Pradesh, the Party contested three seats polling nearly 9 lakh =
votes. In Khammam we polled 3.74 lakh votes and won the scat with a marg=
in of. We got 3.12 lakh votes in Miryalagudam and lost by 43 thousand vot=
es. In Nellore eve polled 2.01 lakh votes. In Punjab, the Party conteste=
d 3 seats in which we polled 2,36,993 votes. The highest vote was in San=
grur where we got 1.56 lakh votes. In the Union Territory of Chandigarh =
we contested for the first time and polled only 6030 votes. in Maharashtr=
a, we contested 3 seats. We lost the sitting Wardha scat and came third =
this time. In Dahanu, in the adivasi belt we polled 1,36,000 votes an =
increase of 26,000 over 199 but we had expected to do much better on the =
basis of !the votes the SP and JD had polled in the Bhiwandi segment wher=
e there is a large minority population. In Ichalkaranji we polled 80,000 =
votes. In Bhubaneswar, our sitting seat, we polled 2.19 lakh votes and =
lost the seat to the Congress. In Karnataka, we contested the Bihar seat=
with an understanding with the Janata Dal. We polled 72 thousand votes. =
Our performance was limited by the fact that the Party has no organisati=
on in most of the assembly segments.

Of Casteism

In the Hindi speaking region, the twin processes of communal polarisation=
and caste based mobilisation have badly affected the Left forces. The =
secular bourgeois parties which are in the fray and who are the main forc=
es to challenge the BJP rely primarily on caste based mobilisation to cou=
nter the BJP The mobilisation of the backward castes and dalits on the =
slogan of social justice and lower caste assertion does represent a democ=
ratic aspect in that the socially oppressed cases are asserting their rig=
ht sand want a fair share in political decision making. However, devoid =
of a socio - economic programme of fighting the roots of social and caste=
oppression, caste-based politics only helps to perpetuate caste division=
s and consciousness. With this becoming a widespread phenomenon, the reac=
tionary parties like the BJP are also resorting to counter-caste mobilisa=
tion and appealing to the sectarian feelings of upper castes and sub-cast=
es and communities. Both the Janata Dal in Bihar and the Samajwadi Party=
in U.P represent this phenomenon and the negative features of this polit=
ics is having its impact on the Left too. A closer look at the political=
and organisational problems within the CPI(M) would reveal the growth =
of caste consciousness within the Party ranks at different levels and ero=
sion of the class bases of the Left. The Janata Dal in Bihar has made inr=
oads into the Left's rural base while the BSP and the other parties have =
affected the Left's following in U.P on caste lines. We have so far not =
made serious efforts to counter the growing divisions on caste lines of =
the people.

While the caste polarisation and political mobilisation on caste and sub-=
caste lines is becoming an acute problem in the Hindi speaking -states, =
such a trend is not confined here alone. Growing caste identity/consciou=
sness and their electoral appeal on caste lines is growing in states like=
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and so on in the non-Hindi regio=
ns too. While we continue to ally with the non- Congress secular bourgeo=
is parties, the Party will have to seriously address the problem of caste=
ism and its political and electoral implications. Here the Party's indepe=
ndent Political-ideological stand on the caste question must be Spelt out=
and widely propagated. The concrete situation in each state must be stud=
ied and proper tactics and slogans worked out so that the potential of =
the awakening of the communities subject to caste oppression is carried =
forward on democratic lines while the narrow, sectarian and opportunist =
electoral manifestations which lead to dividing the working people and =
disrupting class unity is properly countered. While seriously taking up =
the struggle for land and wages for the oppressed sections we must simult=
aneously fight against caste oppression. There has to be anti-caste propa=
ganda as part of general Political Propaganda. Mass organisations must =
also take up the social problem of casteism and its evil manifestations. =
All this requires sustained political and ideological education of oar =
Party ranks and mass campaigns where our stand on reservation, caste oppr=
ession, social evils arising out of caste system, are all tackled within =
the framework of the class approach and the Marxist standpoint on the rel=
ation between class and caste.

The failure to make any significant electoral advance in the Country as =
a whole over a long period, the inability to utilise the favourable situa=
tion of mass discontent against the bourgeois landlord Policies of the =
Congress and the success of the BJP in such a situation does raise sonic =
basic questions. Some of these issues have been raised in the discussion=
s in Some of the state Committees while reviewing the elections.

Examination Required

Since 1991, we had conducted at the all-India level and in the states, =
a number of strulgles and campaigns against the economic policies of the =
Rao government and played a leading role in the broad based resistance =
which has developed through formations like the National Platform of Mass=
Organisations. Similarly, our Party has been consistent in organising =
anti-communal campaigns and rallying the wider sections in defence of sec=
ularism. We have also been in the forefront in exposing the corruption =
scandals. Despite all these activities by the Party and the mass organis=
ations we are not able to go beyond our existing areas and increase our =
electoral strength. This requires deeper consideration.

In those weaker states, where the Party has some presence and pockets of =
influence, our political tactical line enjoins us to forge alliances with=
the secular bourgeois parties which are opposed to the Congress and the =
BJP. Over a considerable period of time we have adopted concrete tactics =
which have resulted in alliances and joint election campaigns with the =
bourgeois parties who are stronger than us. The experience of how our =
Party has utilised these joint platforms and united fronts must be examin=
ed. In successive Party Congresses we have stressed the importance of dev=
eloping the independent activities of the Party in the political-ideologi=
cal and organisational spheres. We have set out the importance of increas=
ing Left intervention and Left unity in the context of forging the wider =
alliance and for paving the way for the advance of the Left and democrati=
c forces. However, both in mass movements and in elections such joint =
platforms and fronts have not led to the commensurate growth of the indep=
endent strength of the Party and its mass organisations. It is a common =
experience in many of the weaker states that our independent strength has=
stagnated or declined compared to the advance made by other bourgeois-la=
ndlord parties.

Lag in
Independent Party Positions

In projecting the independent political line of the Party among the peopl=
e, in taking ideological and class positions distinct from the bourgeois =
parties, the Party is lagging behind. When such wider alliances and join=
t fronts with other political parties are forged and this independent pol=
itical ideological stand is absent or lagging, the Party's growth gets =
limited. It is difficult for the people to see the distinct identity of =
the Party.

Secondly, the call for independent activities of the party is often ritua=
listically observed in a formal manner without sufficient initiative take=
n at the grassroots level to take up the class and mass issues and launch=
struggles and movements. The capacity to take up independently issues =
by the Party and to wage militant struggles has been giving way to genera=
l campaigns and reliance on electoral tactics not very dissimilar to bour=
geois parties. In such a situation the methods utilised by the bourgeois =
allies such as caste mobilisation, populist slogans devoid of a class con=
tent and tendency to tail behind the slogans of the dominant bourgeois =
partners is becoming increasingly manifest.

In such a situation, neither the Party's independent strength nor its ele=
ctoral influence grows and, the tendency to tail behind the bourgeois par=
ties ends up in strengthening them and not the Party and the-Left forces.=
How seriously the Party takes the task of projecting the independent pol=
itical line of the Party, building up the all sided independent, activiti=
es, political ideological and organisational and guarding against the ten=
dency to tail behind the bourgeois parties must be seriously looked into.=
This will entail further self-critical examination of our political-tact=
ical line since the 10th Congress particularly our experience in allying =
with the bourgeois parties both electorally and in general political term=

At the organisational level, it must be examined why despite the consider=
able range of mass activities and movements conducted by the Party and =
the mass organisations, they have not found reflection in terms of the =
expansion of the mass strength of the Party. There has been some increas=
e in the total votes polled by the Party in the 1996 parliament elections=
as compared to 1991. This increase is not substantial considering the =
overall increase of the electorate and the gains made by the reactionary =
party like the BJP. The state of the Party organisation at different leve=
ls is marked by various defects and weaknesses. These have been spelt out=
in the political-organisational report and the report on organisation =
in the 14th Congress and the political organisation report of the 15th =
Congress. One of the defects which has been highlighted in the 15th Cong=
ress organisational review is the growing trend towards parliamentarism =
and its attendant opportunist and careerist manifestations.

Trend of

The 15th Party Congress had warned about the growing parliamentary opport=
unism and bourgeois vices which have crept into the Party. The recent ele=
ction experience on the organizational front has confirmed this analysis.=
In West Bengal, the review notes that factionalism in several constituen=
cies caused great harm. One of the reasons attributed for factionalism =
and anti-Party activities in the elections is the discontent about not =
being nominated as Party candidates. The state committee has called for =
strict action against such persons or Party units. The West Bengal State=
Committee review notes "A dangerous trend was the anger that was created=
in those who were not provided the nomination they somehow expected. =
They kept on pressurising the Party on this account. Some went ahead to =
provide statements to the bourgeois press that were full of distortions. =
We stress that the fact that supplementation of existing candidates with =
new incumbents did not have any negative impact on the electorate." In =
Kerala too the manifestation of parliamentarism has been see in various =
forms which was taken note of at the Party Congress and subsequently. The=
Kerala review report states: "One tendency perceivable in the Party whil=
e deciding the candidates was the incidence of the growing parliamentary =
illusion. At certain places various types of bad tendencies to become =
the candidate came to the fore. The feeling that all these are permissib=
le has grown. In certain constituencies the tendency to question the Par=
ty decision has appeared. These are to be viewed seriously." In Andhra =
Pradesh, in the Miryalguda constituency in Nalgonda district, factionalis=
m reached a climax on the question of choice of candidate during the earl=
ier assembly elections and now during the Lok Sabha elections. The outcom=
e of this revolt has been disciplinary action taken against a number of =
district committee members and the, exit of the Party's veteran leader =
B.N. Reddy who has now been, expelled.

While thousands of our Party members and activists worked tirelessly and =
sincerely during the election campaign it is also a fact that in many sta=
tes and constituencies we could not mobilise the entire membership of the=
Party to be active in the election campaign. From the review submitted =
by the state committees it is clear that in many places only 50 percent =
of the Party membership became actively involved in a sustained fashion =
in the election work. If the Party members themselves cannot be activised=
in a major political campaign like during the elections, it shows an ext=
remely low level of consciousness and a very bad state of the Party organ=
isation. In some states like Bihar and UP, there is reluctance on the =
part of leading cadres to go and work during the elections in the constit=
uencies where the Party is contesting. This localism is dictated by conc=
ern for remaining in their own areas with an eye to nurturing their own =
electoral constituencies or maintaining links with the allied party who =
is contesting. Another weakness noted is that in constituencies like Bhu=
baneshwar, Nawadah, Wardha or Varanasi, despite contesting elections a =
number of times and having won the seats also, the Party organisation has=
not developed. No attention has been paid to developing the mass organi=
sations and building the Party. Hence we are totally dependent on the =
bourgeois party allies to gather the votes for us. If they fail to do =
so, we are in a helpless plight. In most of these constituencies we were=
unable to man fifty percent of the polling booths with our volunteers.

Parliamentarism does not mean just some individuals hankering for elected=
posts. It also means neglecting the work of building the Party and the =
mass movements and perpetuating the illusion that electoral activity is =
the sole political activity by which the Party can grow. It is necessary=
to combine parliamentary and extra-parliamentary work so that the mass =
movements are strengthened on which basis the Party can be expanded.


The problems of factionalism, group rivalries, individualism and careeris=
m all testify to the growing corrosion of political consciousness and com=
munist norms. The Party Congress direction for initiating a rectification=
campaign must be taken up immediately now that the elections are over. =
The next meeting of the Central Committee must discuss this. matter in =
depth and decide how this campaign can be conducted inside the Party. =
This underlines the importance of the 15th Congress call for a rectificat=
ion campaign within the Party to remove the wrong trends and defects in =
the organisation.

Guidelines For Elections

The Central Committee in its meeting in Madras in January 1996 had discus=
sed and formulated certain guidelines for the selection of candidates. =
These were to be discussed in the state committees and given concrete sha=
pe. Based on this efforts were made to limit the number of terms of the =
MPs and MLAs. In Kerala the state secretariat/state committee discussed =
and decided that out of the 29 MLAs who had served more than 2 terms 12 =
would be given exemption to contest again. Similarly 3 comrades were reco=
mmended to re-contest the Lok Sabha elections. These proposals were forwa=
rded to the P.B for approval and it was implemented accordingly. Out of =
the 86 candidates who contested the assembly and Lok Sabha elections, onl=
y 17 had more than 2 to 3 terms. In the case of West Bengal out of the =
208 candidates for the assembly 57 sitting MLAs were changed and 17 candi=
dates who lost were changed making a total of 74. There were 16 candidate=
s who had served 4 terms and 8 candidates who had served more than 4 term=
s. In the-Lok Sabha out of the 31 candidates put up by the Party 9 were =
new candidates. 5 sitting MPs did not contest again and 5 candidates were=
those who had served more than 4 terms. The West Bengal secretariat was=
of the opinion that many of those who had served more than 2-3 terms cou=
ld not be dispensed with given the toughness of the contest and the short=
time given to make preparations to change candidates. In Andhra Pradesh=
, the sitting M.P. who served three terms was changed and a new candidate=
put up. In Orissa, for the Bhubaneshwar seat given the difficult situat=
ion and the insistence of the Janata Dal to, change our candidate we deci=
ded to put up our sitting M.P.

The P.B had suggested that more women candidates should be put up this =
time. However, only 5 women candidates could be put out of the total of =
76. Despite the request of the PB, the Kerala committee could not put up =
even one woman candidate in our list. It is only West Bengal which made =
an effort in this regard land put up 3 women candidates. As for the rest,=
there was one from Andhra Pradesh and one from U.P. The struggle against=
the male dominated outlook must continue. Given the fact that one-third =
reservation for women is going to be implemented soon for the legislature=
s and parliament, the Party should seriously address itself to recruiting=
women in the Party from the mass organisations giving them sufficient =
scope for education and training so that there can be many women candidat=
es of the Party in the coming days.

Commission Curbs

The Election Commission's directives on curbing of election propaganda =
and expenditure have affected our Party's campaign work according to the =
reports of many states. While a close check on election expenditure was =
helpful in curbing the misuse of illegal money and extravagant expenditur=
e, unreasonable curbs on wall writings, propaganda by meetings and mikes =
and use of posters etc. works to the disadvantage of parties which rely =
more on political propaganda than on money power to reach the people with=
their message. Given the experience of these elections we must mount a =
public campaign on how money power can be curbed in elections without lim=
iting the use of genuine propaganda material and methods to reach the pol=
itical message to the people.

Centre's Work

The election manifesto of the Party was finalised by the PB and released =
as soon as the elections were announced. The Party Centre published 16,0=
00 copies in English and 40,000 copies in Hindi. The state committees =
printed the manifesto in various languages.

To assist the political campaign the agit-prop sub- committee decided to =
bring out a series of pamphlets on various topics to popularise the Party=
's policy positions. A total of 12 pamphlets covering economic policy, =
problems of the working class, peasantry, student and youth, women, imper=
ialist pressures and corruption were brought out in English and Hindi fro=
m the Centre. Some of these pamphlets were brought out in the various lan=
guages by the state committees but some of the states could not utilise =
them in their own languages in time. A video cassette and some audio cass=
ette of songs were also brought out.


The pre-election situation and the post-election national scene have unde=
rlined the important role the Party and the Left have to play in fighting=
the communal danger, forging the widest secular unity and defending the =
economic interests of the people and the country. The complicated politi=
cal situation which emerged after the elections saw the serious bid by =
the BJP to install and function a government at the centre. The success =
in uniting all the non-Congress secular forces, in which our party played=
key role led to the fall of the BJP government and the formation of the =
Deve Gowda government. The thwarting of the immediate threat of the BJP =
capturing power should however not lull us into complacency.

The BJP has emerged as a major force at the national level. Unlike other=
bourgeois parties it pursues an avowedly reactionary .and communal progr=
amme. In the coming days, the party will have to vigorously combat the =
spread of the communal ideology exposing its right wing class character, =
the reactionary social philosophy of Hindutva and the serious implication=
of its being in power at the Centre. It also requites consistent effort=
s to widen the anti-communal mobilisation.

Utilising the presence of the U.F government at the Centre all positive =
measures to strengthen federalism, secularism, democratic reforms and pro=
viding relief to the people must be pursued. At the same time, the Party =
has to preserve its independent identity, demarcate our position on polic=
ies which adversely affect the people, mobilise and launch struggles and =
movements to defend the interests of the working people.

The advance of the Left and democratic forces can be ensured only if we =
carry out the major tasks of combating the communal danger and resisting =
and reversing the imperialist sponsored economic policies. Success in =
this direction can be ensured only if the Left is strengthened and united=

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