West Bengal: CPM revamp likely, young faces may get key roles

The CPM is working on a plan to cap the age limit for being a member of the Central Committee, a key decision-making panel in the party, to 65.

The CPM could be in for a major revamp soon, replacing ageing warhorses with young faces in key leadership roles. If the party’s plan to ring in changes in the top leadership and give itself a youthful makeover is implemented, seasoned campaigners such as Biman Basu and Suryakanta Mishra will have to step down in a matter of months and be replaced with younger leaders. The changes could come into effect after the upcoming party conference.

The CPM is working on a plan to cap the age limit for being a member of the Central Committee, a key decision-making panel in the party, to 65. In line with the proposed policy shift at the central level, the party’s state leadership at Alimuddin Street also wants to set the maximum age limit for being a state committee member at 72. For district committees, the retirement age of key office bearers could be set at 60. In case of area committees, the members might be mandated to retire at 65.

The party’s Bengal unit has already fixed the maximum age limit for inclusion at the state committee at 60. The proposed age limit was discussed in the just-concluded state committee meeting of the party. If the proposal is accepted and acted upon, some other familiar faces in the party such as Rabin Deb, Madan Ghosh and Nripen Chowdhury will also have to step down from the state committee.

Even in the district leadership, many old faces might be asked to move on and be replaced with bright, young leaders. The state leadership had reportedly drawn the wrath of CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury on the way party organisations are run in West Bengal.

The review report, passed at the just-concluded meeting of the Central Committee, said that despite the BJP being declared main opponent of the CPM, there was “confusion” among Left leaders in the state on whether to target the BJP or Trinamool Congress. In many cases, both were targeted on the same issues. According to sources, Yechury wanted to know whether someone had coined the slogan ‘BJMul’ on social media as it was used liberally by state leaders while campaigning for the Assembly polls. The slogan, which implies that the BJP and Trinamool are two sides of the same coin, was seen as a blunder in a recent assessment of the party’s disastrous poll performance in Bengal. For the first time in its electoral history in the state, the Left Front failed to send a single member to the Assembly.

Some of the district leaders in the state committee, however, questioned if it was important in politics to prioritize youth over experience when it came to assigning leadership roles.

To that, the leadership responded that the proposed age limits should be enforced across committees in accordance with the party’s policy. On the second day of the state committee meeting on Friday, Jibesh Sarkar of Darjeeling and Rupa Bagchi of Kolkata spoke up on the issue. However, state secretary Suryakanta Mishra made it clear that the age limit is going to be implemented, starting with the central committee and it must be followed in all committees. He said the party doesn’t want to make an ‘exception’ as it could soon become ‘normal’.

According to party sources, a section of the state leadership also questioned the policy of fixing the retirement age in the state secretariat on the first day of the state committee meeting. Their proposal was to fix the average age of the members of the state or district committees. However, the state party leadership wasn’t willing to relent. If the new retirement policy takes effect, as looks likely, about 40% of the CPM’s current state committee will have to step down. About 50% of the district leadership will also have to retire.

In response to a question from Alimuddin , Yechury said, “The Central Committee is going to set an upper limit of 65 years. The upper limit of the Central Committee will be lower than that of the state and other committees. This principle must be obeyed by all. Soon you will see a younger CPM!”

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