Shortly after Nandi-gram, the Communists have another embarrassment. While Pakistan has flared up against military dictatorship, the Communist China has, in utter disregard of the pro-democracy sentiments of the masses, come out in support of Pervez Musharraf.
The Left Front'smost recent record in ushering in capitalism in the state of West Bengal is shameful enough, but there isn'teven a muted response to Pakistan judiciary reeling under the boots of a military dictator. The hopes of any reaction against Beijing'ssupport to Musharraf would in any case, be just a pipe dream.
India must study the Chinese support more carefully. The all-weather Sino-Pakistani friendship talks clearly about furthering strategic ties. Came as it did when the US establishment is having second thoughts about the Pakistani General, the message to Washington too is loud and clear.
However, let'sstick to India alone. Even though the Left allows the UPA government to survive on its oxygen, it misses no opportunity to bare out the Manmohan Singh government'scapitalists tendencies. And in its own bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, it'snot just rolling out Red carpet to woo foreign investment but is shameless in suppressing popular revolt. Their close cousins Naxals have not forgotten the atrocities that Jyoti Basu had inflicted on them.
Left needs to look at its own record before preaching others. Unless they are bereft of it, the Communists led by the CPI(M) in particular, will hang their head in shame.
Sumit Sarkar and his wife Tanika are renowned Left historians and they have always take pride in their association with the Marxists. But not anymore. They have returned the Rabindra Puruskar the CPI(M) government had bestowed on them. They were angered by the Nandigram firing on hapless farmers protesting against unjust appropriation of the rights by the state. If the farmers didn'twant to sell their land, why should anyone coerce them to do it and be forced to change their occupation too.
Contradictions are clear. Coming from CPI(M), lofty ideas, talks of power to the people and human rights appears hollow. Especially after the Sarkars said that Nandigram reminded them of 2002 Gujarat riots, it is a clear verdict?Emperor has no clothes.
Sarkars are not alone. They are joined by scores of artists and intellectuals across the country. They have showed their resentment in no uncertain terms.
Also, West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi has hardly ever courted political controversy. He is known to be a man of scholarship, integrity and composure. When he criticizes the government, it contains credulity of honesty. And that irritates the CPI(M).
The state government thought it would get away this time too as it did earlier. It thought that a nexus of party, police and a highly politicized establishment would again suppress opposition. It forgot, however, that communication technology and a vibrant media not only had gathered more strength in recent times but also spread the reach. Mamata Banerjee just fitted the bill.
The support of Jamiat-e-Ulema against the state government is again reflective of the withering away of its Muslim vote bank.
So, did Nandigram happen due to CPI(M)'soverconfidence? Partly. More so, due to the bourgeois-like attitude that has crept into the leadership. Does one need to remind that Marie Antoinette was not a popular ruler?
And if one may turn towards Parliament for some ?inspiring? incidents, the Left set examples which are perhaps the worst in the annals of the parliamentary history of the nation.
Nandigram, quite naturally, generated much political heat in both the Houses. The NDA and the ruling almost came to blows. It was only expected. But the sheer ruffian behaviour of the Kolkattan Left forced the Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to offer his resignation for the nth time.
No, the Communists did not attack any member from the Opposition benches but a Cabinet Minister belonging to DMK, a fellow ally in UPA.
Minister for Road Transport and Shipping T.R. Balu became the target of physical attack. Had the Minister of State for Railways Velu not come to his rescue and formed a human shield, anything was possible. As the Left MPs tried to snatch papers from Balu as he announced shifting of a maritime institute from Kolkata to Chennai, in the scuffle Velu almost lost his dhoti?much for the decency and dignity that they champion. Not many are willing to buy their holier than thou attitude.
What many would have thought the minimum, the Left did not even offer an apology. Worse, the statement after the CPI(M) politburo meeting was written in cold blood.
So what does it all hold for the national politics. The Manmohan Singh government will be further weakened. The Left, to deviate attention from its deeds, will try to attack the government and prevent CBI from bringing the real guilty to book.
But it will surely not sink the UPA boat as this is the best it has in having the best of both worlds. If the BJP comes to power at the Centre, it will only give the Communist government in the state more sleepless nights instead of the present situation where it can threaten to pull down the Congress-led UPA government.
It is only a mass movement that can keep the CPI(M) on tenterhooks. It is time the civil society, instead of being a mute spectator, should emerge not just as conscience keepers but should also keep alive genuine democracy instead of what Communists have been long indoctrinated with.
It is also time the state live up to?what Bengal thinks today, the rest of India thinks tomorrow.
(The author is a senior journalist and an international relations expert. He can be contacted at [email protected])