(from left to right) - Bhagabati Charan Panigrahi, Guru Charan Patnaik and Prannath Patnaik
The impact of successful Bolshevik Revolution of Russia in 1917 was evident through out the world through formation of Communist Party units in different countries. On October 17, 1920, in Tashkent of the then USSR, a group of revolutionaries of our country had formed the first party unit of India.The first national conference was organized in Kanpur in December 1925.
But the Communist Movement took roots in Odisha much later.1936 happens to be an eventful year in the history of Odisha. The dream of a linguistic State comprising Odia speaking tracks became reality on 1st April 1936. Before the year came to an end, the secret cell of the Communist Party of India, then an illegal outfit as per colonial law, made its appearance with Comrade Bhagabati Panigrahi as the Secretary, the other two members were Comrade Guru Charan Patnaik and Comrade Prananath Patnaik.
The formation of the Comunist Party was neither sudden nor accidental. It was the culmination of the process that started with the quest of disillusioned Congress prisoners in Patna camp jail in 1932 for an alternative path. Being fed up with the compromising policy of Indian National Congress in the struggle against British imperialism similar developments in other parts of the country too took place and that culminated in the formation of Congress Socialist Party at Gaya on May 24, 1934 accepting “Socialism” as the alternative Path. It was followed by the first State Conference of CSP at Cuttack on 5th June 1934. Nabakrishna Choudhury was elected as its Secretary and was succeeded by Bhagabati Panigrahi. It is worthwhile to mention that before the Gaya where the CSP was founded the left & Progressive Congressmen of Odisha gathered at Tarkiunda, the village of Nabakrishna Choudhury and formed an organization named “Samyabadee Karmi Sangha”. Initially “Sarathi” as fortnightly and subsequently “Krushak” as weekly was brought out as the mouthpiece of Congress Socialist Party edited respectively by Nabakrushna Choudhury and Bhagabati Panigrahi.
“Nabayuga Sahitya Sansad”, comprising the progressive writers was also formed in 1934. It functioned as an effective platform for the propagation of “Marxsim”, the modern revolutionary ideology, a prerequisite for the formation of the Communist Party. The publication of “Adhunika” as the organ of this progressive writers outfit in 1936 accelerated the process.
The freedom struggle, the state’s peoples’ movement of Ranpur, Dhenkanal, Nilgiri and Talcher, the student’s movement, kissan movement, youth movement, to a smaller extent Trade Union movement, platform of progressive writers etc. were the area of activity of the communists and congress socialists. They could influence the content of the Election Manifesto of Indian National Congress for the Assembly election of 1937 that made certain progressive pronouncements. In the Assembly election of 1937, out of 60 seats in the Assembly while Congress won in 37 , the Left has five representatives (Nabakrishna Choudhury, Prananath Patnaik, Mohan Das, Govinda Pradhan and Fakir Behera) . The ideological conflict and approach to the second world war led to a split in the ranks of the Congress socialist Party. The Pamphlet authored by Minoo Masani and published by the CSP reveals that they had 40 members and barring 6 others were Communists.
Though the Party was formed in December, 1936 the people of Odisha were unaware of the development as the Party was illegal & its activists were working secretly being members of Congress & Congress Socialist Party. The Britist Govt. framed the Communists in Cuttack Communist Conspiracy Case on June 11, 1940. This provided the opportunity to the people of Odisha to know about the formation of the party along with the news of the arrest of communist leaders. Before the conspiracy case was lodged four issues of ‘Agechal’ in cyclostyled form was published as the party organ. It was followed by the publication of “Communist” and “Kotikantha”.
The ban on the party was lifted in 1943. Party came overground. State & District offices started to operate. “Muktiyuddha” as the new organ was brought out. The premature death of Comrade Bhagabati Panigrahi on October 23, 1943 came as a bolt from the blue an irrecoverable loss.
When the post war upsurge swept over the country, Odisha did not stand as an exception. The “Praja Movement” in Nilgiri & Dhenkanal , the peasant movement at various places and the anti Union Jack agitation etc. expanded the base and influence of the Communist Party. The victory of Comrade Baidyanath Rath from the workers constituency to Odisha Assembly in 1946 stands as the testimony of this.
It goes to the credit of the Communist Party, whose struggle created a condition where the king of Nilgiri Princely State had no other option before him but to sign the instrument of accessions on 14th Nov. 1947 marking the beginning of the merger of princely states with Indian Union. Comrade Banamali Das was the leader of this movement.
Communist Party took up the cause of working people, peasantry, the agricultural labourers, the share croppers, the tenants, the students & reorganization of linguistic state etc. In the first General election in 1952 while 7 members were elected to the Assembly one was elected to Lok Sabha. In 1957 the strength of the Party in the Assembly increased to nine. In 1962 one MP was elected to the Loksabha.
The differences on ideological, programatic, national & international issues cropped up in the united Communist Party culminating in a split of the party at the national level with the formation of CPI (M) in 1964 at its 7th Congress held at Kolkata. The formation of CPI (M) happens to be the result of decade long inner-Party struggle against revisionism within the Indian Communist movement. The left sectarian trend represented by the Naxlites ended in another disruption.
The 1967 elections witnessed formation of CPI(M) led Govt in Kerela and a CPI(M) led dominated coalition Govt in West-Bengal. Because of its strength and correct position CPI(M) grew through out the country .
The CPI (M) which was a smaller contingent in Odisha following the 1964 split was affected by the Naxlite disruption. But it could muster strength to make advance with the flow of fresh bloods in late 60s & early 70s of past century. Party expanded among students, workers, youth & women and its traditional peasant base went on expanding. Youngsters of the then student movement in Odisha were attracted towards CPI(M).Declaration of Internal Emergency by the then Congress Govt at the Centre in 1975 was opposed by CPI(M) and it was supported by CPI.The party was seen as the champion of struggle against Congress misrule, its one Party authoritarian drive, the uncompromising fighter against communalism and a committed force to advance peoples struggle. This ensured the expansion of the Party to new areas.
The electoral representation started in 1967, the first election the party faced after the split, with one MLA, Comrade Banamali Das elected to the Odisha Assembly from Nilgiri constituency. The number increased to two in 1971 & 1974. In 1977, 1989 & 1991 elections CPI (M) leader Com. Sivaji Patnaik was elected to Parliament from Bhubaneswar Lok-Sabha Constituency with the support of the then Janata Party. In 1977, 1990, 2000, 2004 & 2014 elections Party is represented in the Assembly.
During the split in Communist Party in 1964 its organization was concentrated in Balasore, Puri and Cuttack district, What ever little was there in Ganjam was again disturbed due to Naxalite disruption in 1967.Gradualy the party extended its base to undevided Ganjam, Sundargarh, Kalahandi etc. Now the party has presence with its units in 24 districts of the state.
The Party is currently engaged in struggle against neo-liberalism, communal politics of BJP & the anti people policies & corruption of the State BJD Government. It is opposed to the policies & programmes of Congress Party. CPI (M) is taking initiative to expand Left unity & Strengthen Left and democratic forces. With every dawn our commitment and efforts for the exploited, dispossessed and commoners is gaining new grounds.