It was not meant to be an occasion in mass mobilisation but Sitaram Yechury, general secretary and party parliamentary group leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI) could have used his recent visit to Lucknow to do just that.

Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh (UP), the largest populated state and state elections in 2017 are just round the corner. With a population of more than 200 million people, unemployment is a huge problem here. According to a report of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) unemployed youth in UP in the age group of 15-35 will total one crore by 2017 at the end of the ongoing 12th Five Year Plan. Communal forces are on the rise here, making UP fertile ground for the launch of a vibrant people's movement.

Out of the large number of youngsters, many students have opted for the far right instead of being inspired by the Left? There was a time when most middle class youngsters had dreamt of playing some role in building communities. The youth was attracted to Left politics and its pro people agenda. Todaycelebration of individuals and consumerism is the call of the day as the Left wonders why students have turned their back on progressive politics despite inequality caused by neoliberalism. Is this because the Left is no longer in touch with what is good for people?

Spelling out his vision of the New Left, Yechury did say during his brief visit here that the main challenge before the Left is to stand up to communal, and capitalist politics of the day. He wants to strengthen the Left by leading a people's movement that will provide an alternative vision of life, especially involving the youth at a time when frustration against the neo liberal economic policies of the government is at its peak.

Yechury wants to see secular forces strengthened in the country and he does not favour alliances or building coalitions in governance with either the Congress Party or the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“The Left has to strengthen itself and stand on its own feet,” he said adding that in an emergency and in the interest of the nation the Left will of course work shoulder to shoulder even with the Congress Party.

There is a need to practice socialist policies in UP like never before as inequality increases and there is none to address problems of joblessness and homelessness. Poverty in UP is extreme even as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in the face of policies that favour the rich.

A vibrant industrial and agricultural region, it is also home of the largest population of socially excluded communities of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other so-called "backward castes". One third of the state’s population lives below the poverty line and several indicators of health, nutrition and education are amongst the worst in India.

Most alarming is a continuing decline in the number of agricultural workers even though this is the mainstay of the state's economy. The state faces severe problems of agriculture and economic development as neo liberal policies continue to widen the gap between the rich and poor. The state can do with a kind of politics that promises cooperation and solidarity rather than competitive individualism. The politics of the day must reduce class divisions and discourage exploitation and alienation.

Socialist ideas that promote public rather than private control of property and natural resources for the benefit of all citizens were first introduced in India after the success of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. In 1921 the Communist Party of India was founded and socialism continues to enjoy a nationwide appeal although its place in the heart of the people has dwindled considerably. The practice of socialist ideas too have reached dead end.

Born in the womb of Russian Communism and shaped for long by high Stalinism, the challenge before Indian Communists is to reinterpret ideology to focus on local social and economic issues beyond mere class struggle to include problems of caste, gender, un-organised labour and agriculture.

If the vision is to continue to work towards bringing about radical reforms in class relations then problems of Dalits cannot be left to Dalit politicians alone or to politicians belonging to the different minority communities. In its 90 year old history, Left governments in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura have done a lot of good in implementing land reforms and improving social services.

However at present, the Left is electorally weakened and run out of steam on the ground. Little vision is shown by the Left that promises to transform society. Like other political parties, the Left too seems to concentrate only on electoral calculations.

That Yechury promises to do more in the future than just make it to Parliament is yet to be seen.