Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hypocrisy of the CPI-M

by Subroto Roy, The Statesman

Political Collapse In Bengal - A Mid-Term Election/Referendum Is Necessary

For the 1991 Assembly elections, I happened to draft the West Bengal Congress's election manifesto although I was not then or ever a member of that or any other party. There was no Trinamul but its future leader had made her jibe of there being watermelons who were red inside and green outside, aptly in case of a few senior leaders. The manifesto quoted George Orwell's denunciation of communist ruling classes, and was so hard-hitting that the CPI-M's main theoretician came out with a statement he had never read a Congress manifesto that had been so harsh on them; privately, I took that to be a compliment though the Congress of course lost the election. There is no one in Bengal who does not want to see Bengal prosper, and the most candid vigorous political conversation is necessary to discover what in fact is true and what ought or not to be done.

Democratic norms

The functioning of the Basu-Bhattacharjee CPI-M is quite utterly amazing. It deserves to be called such because of the seamless transfer of power that occurred between the two men in November 2000. The Chief Minister in a parliamentary democracy is supposed to have the confidence of the House, yet when Jyoti Basu stopped being CM and anointed Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to succeed him, not even a perfunctory vote of confidence was asked for in the House ~ a fact I brought to the attention of the-then editor of The Statesman who agreed with me it signified the CPI-M's contempt for the parliamentary institution they have been ruling over for decades. By contrast, there is already talk in Britain of an early general election as soon as Gordon Brown takes over from Tony Blair.

It is the same contempt for democratic parliamentary norms that Mr Bhattacharjee and company reveal today in pushing through their diabolical plan to acquire farmers' lands on behalf of their businessmen friends. All of 37% of those voting in the 2006 Assembly Elections voted for the CPI-M. By contrast, 41.2% voted for Trinamul and Congress together. Add also the 11.4% of those who voted for the Forward Bloc, RSP and CPI all of whom though part of the Left Front have been opposing the CPI-M on this cardinal issue. That constitutes prima facie evidence that a majority of 52.6% vs. 37% of voters may oppose the CPI-M’s present course of action. Mr Bhattacharjee heads a Government that is supposed to act not merely in the interest of members or groups of his own party or those who have flattered or financed it, but everyone in West Bengal including those who voted against the CPI-M as well as those who did not vote at all.

Gerhard Schröder dissolved the German Bundestag in 2005 though his own party held a majority there. He did so merely because his party lost a provincial election and he felt that indicated loss of confidence in it at the federal level also. Such is how genuine modern democracies work. In India to the contrary, we have had notorious misuse of the Constitution when State Governments were dissolved merely because they were ruled by parties opposed to that which had won a Union-level General Election. Even so, India remains a Parliamentary democracy at Union and State levels, and the Government of the day may advise the Head of State to dissolve the House and call for new elections to be held. It may do so even when there is no legal necessity to do so, i.e., even when it is secure with a majority of seats. It may do so because a political necessity has arisen for doing so.

If Mr Bhattacharjee is a genuine democrat, as he wishes to convey an impression of being, he should advise the Governor to dissolve the Assembly because the CPI-M wishes to go to the people to seek a mandate for its plans for the State's industrialisation and forced acquisition of farm lands towards that end. The Trinamul, Congress, SUCI, Maoists and others including perhaps the CPI, FB, RSP and others will state their opposition, while he, Mr Nirupam Sen and their party will be able to articulate for West Bengal's voters exactly what they propose to do and why. The CPI-M is adamant its cause is right while the Opposition have been agitating in the streets for months, and miniature civil war conditions now prevail in parts of rural Bengal; worse may be yet to come. There is only one way in a supposedly democratic society like ours to discover what should be done, and that is to dissolve the Assembly and call an election. Both sides will have a chance to articulate their positions to the public, and a vote will be held. There the matter would end. It is the one constructive way forward for the State, and indeed for the nation as a whole. (Alternatively, the Governor could be advised to request the Election Commission to administer India's first referendum on a single agreed-upon question like "The West Bengal Government's industrialisation and land-acquisition plan deserves citizens' support: Yes/No".)

If an Assembly election comes to be called and the CPI-M falls below a pre-set target of the vote-share, say 33%, or the Left Front below, say, 45%, then Mr Bhattacharjee, even if he commands a majority of seats again, will know he has no mandate and that he must stop and reconsider what he is doing. As I have said in these columns, West Bengal's main economic problems are financial, having to do with Rs. 92 billion (Rs 9,200 crore) being paid as annual interest on the State Public Debt in 2004, and this may reach Rs 200 billion shortly. Economic development of the State has precious little to do with private businessmen making small cars or motorcycles or putting up buildings for information technology institutes, as Mr Bhattacharjee and his Government have deluded themselves into believing.

CPI-M 2003 statement

Besides its lack of democratic mandate, what surprises most about the modern CPI-M is its sheer hypocrisy. This is a party whose "Central Committee" in June 2003 in Kolkata condemned "non-Left State Governments" for allegedly "giving away thousands of hectares of land either on sale or on lease at throw-away prices to multinational companies and domestic monopolists", and the Union Government for allegedly issuing "a circular calling for forcible eviction of lakhs of adivasis from the land". The Basu-Bhattacharjee CPI-M is now clearly hoist with its own petard.

Tilak said that what Bengal thinks today, India will think tomorrow. It was not for nothing that he said it. If the CPI-M refers the land-acquisition question to the people in a free and fair election or referendum today, it will set a positive precedent for other States and parties in the country. If instead it pushes forward its current diabolical plans, the example it will have set will be one of initiating a class war in reverse, where the poor shall become poorer and the rich richer. India's poorest consist of those rural inhabitants without land, and Government would have deliberately contributed to their numbers swelling.


Anonymous said...

Okay let Buddhadeb call for fresh elections.

If the CP(I)M gets less than 33% of votes or the Left Front less than 45% of votes then let us assume that Mr Buddhadeb has no mandate for industrialization and associated progress.

However the author doesn't chalk out the other "what if" condition (an example of overconfidence?).

What if the CP(I)M gets 34% of votes and the Left Front 46% of votes or say they get 51% of votes? Would that mean they have the mandate for industrialization?

Will the author accept that as a mandate? Or will he then crib that there was "scientific" rigging?

Or will he ask for higher standards for a mandate?

After all Mamata Bannerjee has just one seat in the assembly. She still thinks she and her party have the people's mandate.

And when it comes to hypocrisy which party or organization is not guilty of that?

Aren't our star activists like Medha Patkar or Arundhuti Ray or Sunita Narayan guilty of hypocrisy too?

Isn't "Dr" Mamata Bandhopadhyay also an example of hypocrisy?

Aren't our journalists who suppress facts and pass on opinion and often lies as "news" guilty of hypocrisy?

Aren't we all hypocritic to a certain extent?

As for the Statesman - its stagnant circulation shows that it is not growing in popularity. Maybe it's editorial board should do an introspection of what has gone wrong with this once hallowed institution after the passing away of Mr Irani. Why it asks its journalists to cook up stories. Why it doesn't publish contrary 'opinions' anymore. So much for 'hypocrisy'.

is their really any difference between the trashy journalism of the Statesman, Ganashakti and Bartamaan?



rama said...

Hullo again, thanks for your comment.

I posted this article on my blog since it engaged with the current situation in West Bengal. I thought it was an interesting point of view. I don't subscribe to it, or support it unqualifedly. But its a point of view, that appeared in the print media. I thought it worthwhile to broadcast this, in the interest of critical engagement and enquiry.

You shoud try to communicate with the author, who is with The Statesman, to get his response to your questions. As I am not his spokesperson, I'm afraid I can't answer your questions.

BTW- "Mamata Bannerjee has just one seat in the assembly" - is not correct. But I can let that pass.

I am unable to understand what your grouse is, what you want, who your target is, what your own point of view is, whether you have a point of view, or whether what you think / feel is only a peeved reaction to others' views ... Please think out your views, as well as your various quibbles, objections etc, and please take your angst to the appropriate places. And I would like to hope that eventually, you will take responsibility for your thoughts, views and actions, engage with and enter the public domain, and act to advance your values - rather than do something as meaningless as commenting on my blog! But I can grant that even this can at least help your growth and serve as a preparation for that eventual task.

All the names you have mentioned in your comment - I am not their representative or spokesperson. By carrying / linking to (some of) their views - I have only tried to widen the ambit of people's awareness / information. As much as you react negatively to these views, there are poeple who take these views positively.

Get real. Go to the people. Start learning what reality is. And do your thing there, whatever you believe in. Then, whatever I might say or endorse, or quote or link to - are irrelevant in the face of your real action. I hope you will start being an actor, rather than merely a commenter!



shubhro said...

Subroto Roy in his article suggests holding a referendum to decide if the present WB government's mode of industrialization is good for the people. He also suggests holding assembly elections. I think referendum results would be a better indicator of the government's industrialization policies. In assembly elections people tend to vote for the candidate (at least in an ideal world) and the issue at hand itself might get overlooked.
Rama, if I may speak for Mr Anonymous, I think his angst is directed towards the general hypocrisy we see in all the circles, or at least the more visible ones. And a blog can definitely be a place where one can express that. If you still think internet is not a medium powerful enough to influence public opinion, your calendar is not updating the year part of the date. This is 2007 and by now there have been scores of instances where internet and specifically blogs have made enormous impacts to the sequence of events and public opinion.
Besides, if you think nothing of this blog what are you yourself doing here..?


rama said...

Thank you for your visit and comment Shubhro. I appreciate your clarification on Anonymous' comment. Nevertheless, I felt he was simply engaging in blind pointless ranting aginst this that and the other. To me it seemed juvenile, lacking in any experience of engaging with the public domain. Confused, making all kinds of needless assumptions and assocations, which say more about himself than anything else. Sure, there's a lot of hypocrisy everywhere, but one can always try to be different, and begin with oneself. Just having an opinion about something may not have any significance. One has to think through things, deeply, ongoingly.

Yes, the internet and blogging are important means for awareness, communication and change. However, in an Indian context, I would accord primacy to real engagement with real people in a real place. That is a great teacher. That would also give focus and meaning to any "virtual" action.

My blogging - this is a very personal activity - rather than a public act - to express myself and share my thoughts with others. It follows from the rest of my life, and in turn impacts on my life. But I have no presumptions about my blogging, for instance about this being a means of change.



Anonymous said...

Hello, this is Dr Subroto Roy, author of the article in question. I am flattered I suppose that you blogged my article, though there was an error in the original: I mentioned the name of Promode Dasgupta when I meant that of Sailen Dasgupta, and this was corrected in the paper the next day. The blogger seems to have removed both names at his own initiative. Please drop me a line at drsubrotoroy@thestatesman.net if you wish to make an appointment to meet me to discuss any future republications -- which really should be done only with my permission. Incidentally, all of you are also welcome at the IndiaSeminar YahooGroup where all my work tends to get republished.
Finally, I appreciate the criticism of The Statesman, as I am sure the Editor will too. It is most effective if you write a Letter to the Editor: email it to me, and I will see he gets it.

Every good wish

Subroto Roy