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Sunday, April 11, 2021

West Bengal CPM list unveiled: Red, with a splash of colour

Young faces, poll jingles set to popular folk and Bollywood hits, eye on the long term: how West Bengal CPM is making itself noticed from the sidelines.

Written by Atri Mitra | Kolkata |
Updated: March 16, 2021 7:48:22 am
West Bengal CPM list unveiled: Red, with a splash of colourLeft-Cong-Indian Secular Front rally at Brigade Parade, Kolkata, whose numbers were reassuring for the alliance. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Days after facing criticism that it was a party of old men, the West Bengal CPM has unveiled a list of poll candidates of whom more than half are less than 40 years of age — as the party pointed out. They include Aishe Ghosh, who came to national limelight after she was injured in the violence seen on the JNU campus in January 2020. She becomes the first sitting JNU Students’ Union president to fight elections, having got the CPM ticket from Jamuria.

The party has also given a ticket to Dipshita Dhar, another JNUSU leader, and fielded student and youth wing leaders Srijan Bhattacharya and Minakshi Chatterjee from the two most-watched seats of this poll contest, Singur and Nandigram, respectively.

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Reinventing the party

CPM sources say the decision to ensure that more than half the party candidates are younger than 40 was taken a month ago at a state committee meeting. After the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the CPM had identified its diminishing popularity among the youth as one of the major reasons for its plunging vote share. Its own analysis showed that percentage of its party members who were 31 years or younger fell from 13.5% in 2015 to 7.68% in 2020. The party hopes that giving tickets to youth leaders will reverse this trend.

Change of slogan

As part of the makeover, the CPM has also changed its campaign tactics and slogans. Seeking to shed its image of a party of the urbane middle-class, the CPM has adopted a parody of popular pop number Tumpa Sona (loosely translated as dear girl) as its poll jingle. It is promising jobs and has got its youth cadre to spread the party message through their social networks, making the CPM more visible on the Internet. CPM sources claim their Tumpa Sona parody had more than one lakh views within an hour of launch.

After the Brigade Ground rally, the CPM released another poll jingle ‘Haal ferao, Laal ferao (Change your situation, bring in Red)’, that is a parody of the hit Bollywood number Lungi Dance.

The party, in fact, would have taken much heart from the gathering on February 28, of the United Front (including the Left, Congress and Indian Secular Front). It drew numbers larger than its most optimistic estimates, especially among the youth.

Long-term plan

CPM leaders admit that they do not expect their efforts to result in some astonishing change this time, but they are expecting these young people to gradually mature into the next generation of leaders over time.

Says CPM State Secretariat member Sujan Chakraborty, “We always groom young leaders not just from the point of view of votes, but also for the movement. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Anil Biswas, Biman Bose, Shyamal Chakraborty, Subhas Chakraborty also emerged as leaders through such a process. This is part of our planning. No doubt, this time we have more young faces. When one is in the Opposition, one always draw the young in large numbers. We are using that opportunity to groom them for the future.”

CPM leaders claim that, after 10 years of the “corrupt regime” of Mamata Banerjee and the “communal” and “anti-farmer” stand of the BJP, people of West Bengal are searching for an alternative. And that they will find this alternative in the youth faces of the party, who are fresh, non-corrupt and credible.

The CPM’s young candidates are also canvassing for votes invoking the Left’s credibility in terms of ideology and honesty. Minakshi Chatterjee, in the race from Nandigram against Mamata Banerjee and Suvendu Adhikari, tells voters: “What will Minakshi do after winning the election? Minakshi will organise movements for food, employment. Minakshi promises you that she will not quit the Red flag until her last breath. You will never be ashamed by Minakshi that, after you elected Minakshi, she got corrupted.”

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