It was the big news of the season. But it did not hit many headlines. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) in its characteristic style took it in its stride. No big celebrations, bombarding statements of overturning the system or of working class revolution. It did not even call a press conference to boast its grand arrival on the front which for long was projected as the communist preserve.
But it really is an occasion to celebrate. BMS, an affiliate labour movement of the Sangh family, has emerged as the largest trade union in the country with a staggering membership of 62,15,797 which is 24.98 per cent of the total membership of the trade unions in the country. Equally significant is that this number is nearly double that of the total membership of the second largest union, INTUC, the Congress labour wing, whose membership is 39,54,012. The most striking aspect of this story is the steady decline of CITU, the trade union wing of the communist big brother CPI(M), which slipped to the fifth position with just 26,78,473 members behind the AITUC and HMS. Five years ago, CITU was the third largest trade union. The verification process of the central trade unions took five years to complete. The final figures were announced last week. While the BMS more than doubled its membership even in Kerala, CITU is largely confined to the three states where they are in power.
The commendable BMS growth is a befitting tribute to the great trade union and Sangh leader, the late Dattopant Thengadi. He founded the BMS and nursed and nourished it by his exceptional zeal, hard work, vision and seer like tenacity. It was not a simple task, in the sixties and seventies to cultivate a labour class constituency in a milieu entirely dominated by the red flag. And this he did without imitating common place class struggle rhetoric and sloganeering but by presenting a creative, novel alternative perspective on the factors of production. He did it by inspiration not by calculation. The new course Thengadi charted in industrial relations attracted even a large segment of the Left leaning labour leaders and they became his fans and friends. The first union of national trade unions to fight for workers right in the eighties was a measure of the respect he commanded. Even after his death two years ago, the team and cadre he crafted for the BMS has stood the test and emerged successful. Like their leader they remain publicity shy.
The BMS has been maintaining the lead for the last many years, but this is the highest it has reached and for the CPM labour wing this is the lowest ever. The cozy partnership of power without accountability it is enjoying with the UPA at the centre seems to have had a negative impact on its working class and poor peasant supporters. The party has maintained an eloquent silence ever since the Labour Ministry'sverified final figures were announced. The verification exercise is conducted every ten years and it is considered the most defining moment for trade unions as it determines the representation levels to the unions in the national and international conferences and committees.
The left unions were also wiped out in the recently held first ever elections through secret ballot at the Indian Railways. They have also been losing ground in major public sector units like BHEL, and banking institutions.
Wherever the communist unions went in the name of class struggle, they ensured that agricultural production reached its nadir, factories closed down, unemployment and agitation accompanied and the industry took to its heels to catch the earliest available flight. Their dubious record tell the big story of the barren paddy fields and dry coconut groves of Kerala and locked out industrial units in the states where they are in power. They have no regret. But the people whom they claim to represent have seen through the maze of the Left doubletalk. And they are overwhelmingly embracing the saffron dawn.