BENGAL POLITICS: Now playing in Left: bye-bye band – Sen joins list with appeal

BENGAL POLITICS: Now playing in Left: bye-bye band – Sen joins list with appeal – Buddhadeb’s ‘lost chance’ to Honour the Gorkha Adivasi Political Settlement for a lasting legacy of PEACE & JUSTICE ?!!

The sinking ship - women & children first ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Calcutta, July 14: Industries minister Nirupam Sen today struck a virtual farewell note, reminding would-be successors of the folly of Kalidas in an attempt to dissuade them from cutting the “development” branch.

“Political parties will come and go. Today, I am in the chair but tomorrow somebody else can be there. We won’t remain in power or in the chair forever. We will have to go away,” Sen told the Assembly today while participating in the debate on the state industry budget.

The prophecy articulated the sense of despondency that has gripped the Left and added another voice to the chorus of doomsday predictions (see chart).

Sen went one step further and almost sought to tickle the taste buds of the Opposition to save what he referred to as development projects. Without mentioning Kalidas, he referred to the fabled misadventure that propelled the “woodcutter” onto the path of unsurpassed accomplishment.

“But the new set of people who will be taking over should look after the state’s interest. They are cutting the branch of a tree on which they are sitting. They should not stall development projects now as that would affect the state when they will be in power,” he said.

The audience he was hoping to reach out to — the Trinamul Congress and the Congress — was not in the House. Both had boycotted the debate.

But Sen seemed to find the subject irresistible and made an impassioned plea, returning to the theme of development frequently.

Apparently keeping the 2011 Assembly elections at the back of his mind, the minister said the ruling party would accept the verdict of the people but added that politics shouldn’t take centre stage in matters of development.

“We must always think of what the people would get if narrow, partisan politics comes into play and stops development work. Let there be differences of opinion. Let there be debates on how the state will develop. We all will go to the people. We will bow to the wishes of the people and accept their verdict. But please don’t indulge in politics when it comes to development. I would have been happy if the Opposition was in the House. But I was deprived of what they would have had to say on the industry budget,’’ Sen told the House.

Without going into the details of the electoral debacle the Left suffered at the hands of Trinamul in particular in the recent civic polls, the industries minister said the Opposition was sending “wrong messages’’ to prospective investors that all was lost for the state.

“A venomous campaign has been launched across the state that all is lost in Bengal and that an investor-friendly atmosphere isn’t here. This is being done particularly after the election results that have given the Opposition parties an impetus. All these are sending wrong messages to willing investors,” said Sen, who once spearheaded Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s industrialisation drive.

Sen is considered close to CPM chief Prakash Karat who had yesterday said the Left in Bengal should overcome its weaknesses and shortcomings.

Sen suggested that the Opposition was trying to whip up a fear psychosis about the state. “They (Opposition) are trying to give such an impression of Bengal to make investors feel scared of landing at the airport. But the reality is that investment in our state has gone up and we hope that it will be upwardly mobile in the years to come.”

But after the Singur and Nandigram experiences, Sen was quick to add, the policy of the state government was not to set up industry at the cost of farmers’ interests.

“Wherever the government is acquiring land, we are discussing with the farmers first, telling them about the compensation and rehabilitation they will get. Moreover, we are concentrating on mono crop and infertile lands. Our policy is not to affect the farmers,” he said.

Asked to react to the industries minister’s remarks in the House, leader of the Opposition and Trinamul MLA Partha Chatterjee said: “For industry to proceed, consensus is required. But the ruling party went in for confrontation. That’s why Singur (the Tata car project) didn’t happen. We had asked for the publication of a white paper on which industry got how much land in the state but the government didn’t oblige. Now that the whistle has been blown, the industries minister is talking about the possibility of not being in power.”

EARLIER

Ouch! Karat’s unkindest cut – Anti-Cong boss asks state unit to fend for itself – the ‘red soon to be dead’ in Bengal ?!!

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with Prakash Karat - Machiavellian diplomacy ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Calcutta, July 13: Prakash Karat today did to the Left Front what Mark Antony had done with far more rhetorical flourish to Brutus, praising the Bengal alliance but only to hammer home the message that it had to fend for itself in the elections next year.

The CPM boss also made the task more arduous for the state unit by denying the local leaders a comfort zone they had been yearning for: Karat stuck to his line of opposing the Congress, although he drew a distinction between the erstwhile ally and the BJP.

“In Bengal, the Left Front has come under severe attack from various forces. Nowhere in India has the Left developed so much as in Bengal and it has the strongest base in Bengal. So, it is necessary for the Left Front here to strengthen its unity, counter the attacks and fight back,” Karat said while delivering the Promode Dasgupta Memorial Lecture organised by the CPM to mark the birth centenary of the late state secretary.

Also present were chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, CPM state secretary Biman Bose and a section of the state party leadership that feels that the headquarters’ blind anti-Congressism is the biggest factor that led to Opposition unity and successive Left debacles in Bengal.

If the Bengal leadership was nursing any faint hope of a rethink, Karat said: “Given the current situation, the Left should also mobilise people against the UPA’s neo-liberal policies like the hike in petro prices and rising food inflation.”

In his 45-minute lecture the CPM leader talked about the need to build a non-Congress, non-BJP united front, not merely for electoral gains but to put up a united struggle on pro-people issues. “Only that can lead to the possibility of exploring a political alternative to the Congress and the BJP,’’ he said.

However, in the same breath, the CPM general secretary said: “But I am not saying that a third alternative is feasible now.’’ Such non-feasibility was one of the reasons cited by the Bengal CPM leadership when Karat wanted to withdraw support to UPA I and ally with Mayavati.

Although Karat trained his guns on both the Congress and BJP, he sought to draw a difference between the two parties by saying that the former was secular and the latter a representative of communal forces.

“Both represent the bourgeoisie and landlords. But a difference has to be made between the Congress and BJP. The Congress is secular, though they have a record of vacillations. It is this understanding that made the Left parties support the UPA I government. Our stand was to have an independent role and to oppose anti-people policies of that government. But when they deviated from the economic and foreign policies, we decided to break away,” he said.

If the Bengal leaders were seeking some solace in the distinction, a damper came in the form of a statement that referred to “alienation of the peasantry” from the Left and “shortcomings and weaknesses”.

“There have been some electoral setbacks for the Left in Bengal. The peasantry has become alienated. Lenin had said that it’s not important that you make mistakes if you learn from them. In Bengal, the Left should identify the weaknesses and shortcomings and overcome them,” Karat said.

The statement was a public echo of sentiments expressed at meetings by the CPM central leadership that felt that the failure of the state government in delivering development was a key factor in losing elections. Industries minister Nirupam Sen, considered close to Karat, had said yesterday development projects were not implemented “properly” in the state.

After asking the Left to identify the “weaknesses and shortcomings”, Karat put the ball squarely in the CPM’s court. “The CPM, being the largest contingent of the Left Front, will have a major responsibility in this regard,’’ he said.

“Our Bengal party is not favouring the pursuit of a strong anti-Congress line as we want to weaken the party’s links with Trinamul before next year’s Assembly polls. But our central party leadership doesn’t feel so as is evident from Karat’s remarks,” a CPM secretariat member said later.

Everyone steals, says minister – and lying is also acceptable, no moral or political repercussions ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH STAFF REPORTER

Calcutta, July 13: Panchayat minister Anisur Rahman today admitted corruption in rural bodies but immediately added that “everybody steals”, not just the CPM.

“The panchayats are not the property of the Left Front. All parties, including the Left Front, Trinamul and the Congress, are involved in running them and all of them are involved in corruption. Amra keu shadhu na, shobai churi korey (None of us is a saint. Everybody steals),” Rahman told the Assembly.

He was replying to the CPM’s Dilip Sarkar who wanted to know if a commission would be set up for the appointment of panchayat employees, a process allegedly riddled with irregularities.

Later, speaking in the Assembly lobby, Rahman almost appeared to defend graft by saying it was inevitable.

“There is corruption from the Prime Minister’s Office to the panchayat pradhan. There is so much money involved because of schemes, as a result of which there is corruption.”

Rahman admitted there was scope for corruption in panchayat recruitment.

He also said the Left government had not been able to live up to its potential, echoing some in his party.

“We have not been able to do all that was possible. For our mistakes, there is some resentment in the minds of people,” Rahman said in the House.

OPINION: Demolition of Bengal’s pride – the nail in the Jyoti Basu coffin too ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY ASHIS CHAKRABARTI

Would Karl Marx have survived in Promode Dasgupta’s Bengal? Possibly not.

Even his worst critics concede that Marx was, first and last, an intellectual — in the purist sense of the term. And, the most faithful of PDG’s followers know he was nothing if not a virulent anti-intellectual.

As the CPM gloats over his role in ushering in the long reign of the Left Front in Bengal, PDG’s birth centenary could be just the right time to look back on one man’s single-handed demolition of many traditions that once made Bengal proud.

Education held the pride of place among those traditions. PDG chose education as the starting point of his demolition job.

Those who knew him personally would recall his almost pathological hatred of the educated class.

And, the worst among the educated, to him, were those with western, elitist education. It seemed he considered such people worse class enemies than unadulterated capitalists.

But then, history tells us that anti-intellectualism is not confined to Left sectarians; some of the notorious Rightist political groups and regimes have also been rabidly anti-intellectual.

More than anything else, PDG’s anti-intellectualism seemed to have been rooted in the split of the Communist Party of India.

It was a reaction against the era when the CPI was dominated by highly educated men like P.C. Joshi.

Some, however, think that two things merged to make the CPM — and its leaders like PDG — so unabashedly anti-education.

First, the CPI was the “educated” of the two communist parties after the split — the joke was, “when the communists split, the brain went with the CPI and the brawn with the CPM”.

Second — and politically more important — the CPI was an ally of the Congress and thus a “collaborator” in the eyes of the then rabidly anti-Congress CPM.

One of the CPM’s most popular barbs of the time in Bengal was a limerick: “Dilli theke elo gai, sange bachhur CPI (From Delhi comes a cow, carrying its calf CPI) — an allusion to the then Congress election symbol showing a cow and a calf. The CPI joined the Left Front only before the Assembly polls in 1982.

In 1982, Dasgupta died in Beijing. But by then, he had built a party in his own image — a party that struck strong roots in Bengal, thanks to the first flush of land reforms and the panchayat polls but that also set about breaking down all systems and turning every institution into a tool of the party.

The collapse of the Congress at the national level helped strengthen the Left in Bengal since the late Sixties, but the party that Dasgupta built was putting its own systems in place at every level of Bengal’s social and political life. So much so that his departure from the scene didn’t really change anything for either the CPM or Bengal.

Jyoti Basu, never exactly an admirer of Dasgupta, would be the chief minister for another 18 years. But, typical of communist regimes everywhere, it was the party that ran the government. The apparatchiki in Alimuddin Street made no secret of the fact that the government, the ministers and the elected representatives of the people would do what the unelected party czars asked them to do or not do.

After 1982, it was for the “PDG boys”, as the emerging new team of young party leaders was known, to take over his mantle. All of them, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose included, were cast in PDG’s mould.

But the man who would inherit his power and style and carry on his demolition job, especially in education, was Anil Biswas. Biswas completed what Dasgupta had begun — he used education not only for distributing patronage but also as a tool for party-building.

He was still many years from becoming the party secretary but the party cadre knew that he was the man behind the two ageing and ineffectual party bosses, Saroj Mukherjee and Sailen Dasgupta, who filled the gap between PDG and Biswas.

Between Dasgupta and Biswas, Bengal became a byword for a place where things could only go down — in education, industry, employment and all other things that once gave the state a head-start over other regions of India.

In every field, it was the party and its frontal organisations that ran the show. The legacy lives on to this day — despite Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s brief encounter with reformism, the CPM’s opposition to the privatisation of Calcutta airport, liberalisation of vital sectors like insurance and banking and its sleight of hand over autonomy to Presidency College (now University) are proof of the Dasgupta-bred antipathy towards “elitism” in education as much as in the overall economy.

Bengal may have been declining but the party kept on winning elections. That, however, had much to do with the state of the Congress, both in Bengal and at the national level.

What seems rather strange about PDG’s Bengal is why and how Bengalis, whose pride in educational excellence often borders on the snobbish and the parochial, accepted the leadership of a party that was so openly anti-educated class. Part of the answer surely lies in the political context of the sixties, particularly the impact of the partition of Bengal, but it also raises questions about the Bengalis’ attitude to politics and intellectualism.

Dasgupta may have had his political reasons for hating the educated. But why did the Bengalis fall for the dream of a revolution that had the uneducated as its vanguard ?

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