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The 21st Party Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) — one of its most significant ever — moves behind closed doors on its second day Wednesday.
Serious deliberations will begin after the opening events and speeches of Tuesday, which will, by the end of the week, produce a new leadership for India’s largest communist party at perhaps the most significant time in its history.
The press has been kept out of the venue and the deliberations, which are widely expected to be intense and, possibly stormy.
Visakhapatnam has been painted red, quite literally. As one exits the airport, the city is adorned with the red sickle and hammer flags of the CPM. The Port Stadium — the venue of the meet — throws up more red. Carefully hand-crafted paintings in red decorate the stadium, with the main dais inside done up elaborately in an evidently painstaking manner.
Behind this colourful veneer, however, is a serious mission, to elect the next general secretary of the party. The party remains divided between the two key contenders — Politburo members S Ramachandran Pillai and Sitaram Yechury. While the former represents experience and stronger organisational roots, the latter is the relatively younger face of the party known to be able to reach out to different segments in the political circuits.
Party sources say the main challenge ahead of the party is how to stay relevant at a time when it has been reduced to single digits in the Lok Sabha, decimated even in its stronghold of West Bengal.
Whether youth and greater political charisma can restore the party’s relevance in the national arena, or a more solid organisational person, is what the party will have to decide on in the course of the next five days.