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Left ‘besieged in Bengal’: Top historian quotes Karat

india Updated: Mar 03, 2010 02:20 IST
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The CPI(M) is expecting to lose the next assembly elections in West Bengal, its general secretary Prakash Karat is said to have confided to the best living Marxist historian of present times, Eric Hobsbawm.

In an interview to New Left Review magazine, published from London, the 92 year-old Hobsbawm has quoted Karat as saying that the party expected to “do very badly” in the next assembly elections.

There was no denial from the CPM, and an apparently embarrassed Karat did not respond to requests for comments.

This could put Karat in a spot, coming as it does at a time when the party is preparing for its toughest battle in Bengal and Kerala, the states ruled by it.

It did badly in both states in the last Lok Sabha elections.

In the latest bi-monthly issue of the prestigious Left journal, Hobsbawm has mentioned the “collapse of the CPI(M) in West Bengal” as one of the major developments across the world that surprised him.

“Prakash Karat, the CPI(M) general secretary, recently told me that in West Bengal they felt themselves beleagured and besieged. They look forward to doing very badly against this new Congress in the local elections. This, after governing as a national party, as it were, for 30 years,” the historian stated.

Hobsbawm continued: “The industrialisation policy, taking land away from the peasants, had a very bad effect and was clearly a mistake, I can see that, like all surviving left-wing governments, they had to accommodate economic development.”

He did not elaborate whether this comment was also based on a conversation with Karat.

CPI(M) sources said the conversation was meant to be “informal and off-record and such frank remarks were not to be made public”.

The only other reference to India in the 18-page interview is with reference to “positive and progressive projects” still alive in the world, where the noted historian mentions Jawaharlal Nehru’s secular tradition, Left ruled Kerala and Bengal and “naxalites or Maoists” in Nepal as the hope.

Karat’s comments reflect the difference of opinion between the central leadership and the Bengal unit following the worst ever performance of the party in the 2009 general elections.

“There are shortcomings in the functioning of the government…this is due to its failure to implement properly various measures directly concerning the people’s lives,” the Central Committee noted in its election review.

Some Bengal leaders refused to accept the argument and questioned the withdrawal of support on the nuke deal in 2008, which ultimately led to Congress aligning with the Trinamool and routing the Left in Lok Sabha elections.