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Red alert for the CPI(M)

The CPI(M) has always maintained a monolithic, disciplined structure. Is the anti-industrialisation agitation in West Bengal breaking this order down? Asks Aloke Banerjee.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2007 16:07 IST

Singur and Nandigram have put the CPI(M) in a tight spot — not only in West Bengal but at the national level as well. Allegations that the party is maintaining double standards is haunting it everywhere. When Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee acquires land for industries, it is good as it is for ‘employment generation’. But then does it make sense when the CPI(M) resists Congress or BJP governments doing the same in their own states?

The CPI(M) meet in New Delhi in early 2005 had identified the main weakness of the party as its failure to grow out of the boundaries of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. The strategy was to oppose the Centre’s economic policies and intensify class struggle in other states, particularly in the villages. Accordingly, the CPI(M) sharpened its criticism of the Congress-led UPA government. But strangely, ever since Bhattacharjee came to power for the second time in West Bengal in 2006, the CPI(M)’s sting against the Centre lost much of its venom.

In the 2005 assembly elections in Hissar, Haryana, the CPI(M) had fielded the state secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Citu) against the Congress candidate, Sajjan Jindal’s brother. The CPI(M)’s main slogan was: Jindals flout labour laws in their factories. Will the CPI(M) be able to raise such slogans any more after Bhattacharjee gave a red carpet welcome to the Jindal group to bag its steel plant project in the state? In 2002, the CPI(M) had bitterly criticised the Tata’s acquisition of 25 per cent share of the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL). Will it be able to raise even a muffled voice after the Tata Motors controversy in Singur? In Dadri, the CPI has joined hands with V.P. Singh against the acquisition of land by the Uttar Pradesh government for the Ambanis. But the CPI(M) has not joined the fight. Is it because Bhattacharjee is eagerly pursuing the Ambanis for getting investment in the state?

If capitalism can cure unemployment, what is the utility of a Communist Party like the CPI(M)? The party will have to seek acceptable answers to such questions.

The strength of the CPI(M) in states other than West Bengal, Bihar and Tripura is abysmal. In Assam, the CPI(M) has only two MLAs. In Bihar it has one. In Jharkhand, the MLA strength is nil. In Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan it has an MLA each. In Maharashtra, the party has three MLAs, while in UP it has only two.

One Nandigram is giving enough trouble to the CPI(M) in West Bengal. Several more Nandigrams are waiting to happen. The government has plans to acquire 5,000 acres for the Salim Group at Kukrahati near Nandigram for a residential-cum-commercial complex. Two other ‘Salim townships’ are to come up at the Magrahat-Baruipur area and the Canning-Bhangore zone. Another 3,000 acres of land will be required to build the 100 km Eastern Link Highway. Several commercial blocks will be set up along the highway that will require another 1,000 acres of land. Several industrial estates will also come up over 400 acres of land. The Bhumi Uchhed Protirodh Committee, an umbrella organisation of all the Opposition parties, have already spread out to all these places and more to gear up for another round of ‘bloody resistance’.

For all the 42 years of its existence, the CPI(M) has been able to maintain its monolithic, disciplined structure. It is this belief that has so far helped the party to overcome serious differences. But the new generation of cadres is being exposed to a different ideology. They are growing up in an atmosphere vastly different from what their predecessors were exposed to.

All the veteran leaders had been jailed, beaten up by police for their struggle against capitalism. But for the new generation, red-carpet welcomes to industrialists, setting up shopping malls and expressways, travelling in cars are all acceptable. Even Left Front Chairman Biman Bose had to recently observe that if the agitation continues further and if the ideological moorings are allowed to be loosened even more, the CPI(M) could be doomed forever.


Email Aloke Banerjee: alokebanerjee@hindustantimes.com