The West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee makes an interesting specimen of the predicament confronting the CPI(M). It is natural that there are not many in the country who sympathise with the Marxist leader in his new-found enthusiasm for the Tata car factory in Singur.
When Ratan Tata gave an ultimatum last week to shut down the dream car project in West Bengal even incurring a loss of Rs.1500 crore, there were many state governments offering him land and single window clearance to set up the Nano factory elsewhere. The Nano car has undoubtedly caught the imagination of Indian middle class. Every state is eager to have a share in the historic venture. The latest reports say that the first Nano car will drive out of the Pantnagar Tata factory in Uttarakhand. In fact the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Maj. Gen. (Retd.) B C Khanduri was the first to offer land and other facilities in case the Tatas walked out of West Bengal. He was followed by states like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Every state wants more investments, more industrialisation, job creation, development and prosperity.
Unfortunately, SEZs have become controversial because of the lopsided manner in which the centre promoted it and without sufficient homework the states adopted it. However the BJP-ruled states particularly, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have shown how even a controversial development initiative can be implemented without controversy and taking the people, particularly, farmers as partners and stakeholders at the implementation stage. The farmers should get good price for their land. As far as possible the land acquired for industry should be non-agricultural and industry should come as a vehicle of development, not exploitation.
Even in Singur the agitating farmers are all not against the Tatas. They are not against SEZs either. The Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee is also not opposed to industrialisation. More than anyone else, she as the future alternative of the Left Front is aware of the need to make a paradigm shift in the West Bengal economic approach. In fact Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee tried to garner and capitalise on the craving of the state for progress and change. That is what gave him his unprecedented mandate in the last poll.
But Buddhadeb underestimated the forces of negativism his party had unleashed in the society over the last three decades. Everywhere the CPM is identified with the melancholic demons of darkness, negation, destruction, unemployment and agitation. It is the romantisisation of poverty, blood-letting and mayhem that the CPM has shown. So his own comrades could not digest his new ways.
Today he is talking against bandhs. After conducting over a dozen bandhs sponsored by the state in West Bengal as Chief Minister when he talks about bandh as anti-people his comrades are appalled. They are asking for explanation. The CM says in the company of industrialists that he hopes to convince his people in Delhi. But are they open for discussion? A party in a time-warp promoting the most antediluvian values in politics. The comrades not only in West Bengal, but in Kerala and Tripura are unimpressed. The Kerala Chief Minister who can easily claim a Guinness World Record in conducting the maximum number of state-level strikes in his rule (75 in eight months) was the first to question. A few days ago his state secretariat passed a bundle of allegations questioning his anti-development agenda and characterising him as obscurantist. His reply next day was the party secretary Pinoray Vijayan is a radical revisionist. This is the level of debate in the CPI(M). Neo-capitalism has corroded the party as no other bourgeoisie party. The leaders are divided into two camps. Meanwhile the states under their sway have no development story to tell. They have become huge graveyards of industry. Flight of capital is routine. Educated unemployment is at its peak and like capital, human resource is also finding its way out of the Marxist states.
Mamata Banerjee has exposed this Marxist hypocrisy. But for her spirited agitation in Nandigram and Singur the CPI(M) would have got away with murder. The land acquisition was arbitrary, brutal and inhuman. The CPM leaders were bluffing all these days that the land was taken with willing consent of the people. Rather it was opaque, authoritarian. The CPM attempted to perpetuate a Chinese model top-down-type of industrialisation on farm land forcefully taking away without paying compensation appropriately.