Comrades at crossroads
Renegade Buddha as path-finder
By Shivaji Sarkar
Communist Party of India (Marxist), they say, is on a reform process. They may not have officially divorced communism but they are certainly now also wedded to capitalism. The shine of money has lured them to give up all that Left had been known for so far.
The CPI(M) politburo has put its seal on the progressive stand taken by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in inviting 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) from investors in Singapore and Indonesia. The party still considers such steps regressive if it is done at the Centre. But it does not mind if its Chief Minister follows in the footsteps of Guajrat
Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has been undertaking such foreign visits to seek investment.
That the party is no more for the working class was evident the day there was police lathicharge on the Honda Motorcycle workers in Gurgaon. A leader of its ally CPI, Gurudas Das Gupta was leading the workers. The CPI(M) minister for industry in West Bengal boasted the same day that the workers would not be allowed to take to such a recourse in his state.
Is there any confusion in CPI(M)? Politburo member Sitaram Yechuri says, ?There is no problem. There is no division in politburo.? Even hardcore trade unionists M.K. Pandhe and Chittabrata Majumdar have undergone a change of heart. The politburo does not mind 100 per cent FDI in greenfield airports. It is a different thing it cannot do because the Central government is more conservative and has put a cap of 49 per cent in the aviation sector. Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) leader Pandhe says his union also does not oppose 100 per cent FDI. Yechuri says that Salem Group of Indonesia would not be given agricultural land but if some plots were to be given it would not come in its way. It is another change that is happening in CPI(M) in its approach to farm land.
There is certainly a paradigm shift. It has not happened overnight. The CPI(M) and its allies in West Bengal have been changing for the last two decades. The 18th Party Congress had given the formal approval to that shift. That was the official landmark for the new-look CPI(M).
Even before that, the party was on a changing course. It has been selling state-owned enterprises to private parties. The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, which was for long headed by Somnath Bhattacharya, has taken the lead in this area. The state government did not even mind selling the prestigious Great Eastern Hotel in the heart of Kolkata. It was certainly not a loss-making venture. The employees opposed the move but the new-look CPI(M) cared little for the working class.
That the party is no more for the working class was evident the day there was police lathicharge on the Honda Mototorcycle workers in Gurgaon. A leader of its ally CPI, Gurudas Das Gupta was leading the workers. The CPI(M) minister for industry in West Bengal boasted the same day that the workers would not be allowed to take to such a recourse in his state. This sparked off an angry remark by Haryana'sCongress Chief Minister Bhupendra Singh Hudda. Hudda appeared more pro-worker than the CPI(M).
Why is the CPI(M) changing? Party member of Parliament Anil Basu says, ?We have to be with the times. Once we had opposed computers. Today it is a reality. It gives jobs.? He does not have an answer as to why the number of unemployed youth is the highest in West Bengal or why its villages still are marked by poverty despite what the party claims as significant land reforms.
This has of course led the party to speak in two voices. Anil Basu says there is poverty everywhere in the country so it is there in West Bengal as well and obliquely his hint is at central policies. So wherever there is a failure the CPI(M) is not responsible, that is what they say.
In reality, the Left is singing to the tune of Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram. They are talking in two voices. The party leadership now feels that ideology has restricted their growth. They want to shed it fast and piggy ride on the Congress to increase their area of influence.
Howsoever the West Bengal CPI(M) may deny, the economy in the state is in a shamble. Young boys and girls are happy if they can even manage a job worth Rs 1000 to 1500 a month. Jobs are not there and how many jobs the FDI would really create is suspect. It is only expected to increase the disparity and lawlessness in the state.
Trafficking in women has become one of the biggest trades in the state, particularly in the border districts of Nadia, Murshidabad and 24 Parganas. The mafia functions in close liaison with those across the border in Bangladesh. Many women join them willingly unable to bear the pangs of poverty. The state government virtually has no scheme for them nor its police the will to swoop down on these traffickers. The menace is increasing with massive influx of illegal Muslim immigrants. The CPI(M) nurtured them considering a windfall for their vote-bank. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya for once has taken it up with the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil. The Frankenstein they created has become a threat for them. The immigrants are shifting loyalties and communal tensions are high.
The party'svote-bank is among the poorer classes and the working masses. So when the Centre tries to divest stake in PSUs, the CPI(M) for its voters does a perfect posturing of opposing it. There it wants to maintain its previous anti-reform image. Rather, now its leaders like Anil Basu have started saying they are reforming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. Such dialectics is not for the investors but is aimed at its voters and cadres, who would be going to polls in Left-dominated states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
In reality, the Left is singing to the tune of Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram. They are talking in two voices and compromising with the well-being of the country along with the Congress to the US and multinational interests. The CPI(M) is neo-converts to capitalism.
The party leadership now feels that ideology has restricted their growth. They want to shed it fast and piggy ride on the Congress to increase their area of influence.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])