Tag Archive for 'CPM'

Why the Congress represents Indian values best

Aakar Patel in Mint Lounge:

We are a Congress-minded nation.

In saying this, I don’t mean we’re a nation of Congress voters, though that also is not inaccurate. Other than in one election, 1977, Indians have always voted for the Congress more than for any other party.

What I mean is that Indian values are best, and I would even say, only represented by the Congress. These values are religious accommodation, comfort with racial and linguistic diversity, acceptance of caste in politics, comfort in dynasty and a preference for compromise over principle. This flexibility has kept India democratic, and it is a Congress trait. The party also represents the middle-class consensus which views India as a great civilizing force, and seeks a nurturing of India’s cultural aesthetic.

In Pakistan’s The Express Tribune, Khaled Ahmed wrote on 8 April: “The Indian Constitution informs the attitude of the Indian middle class, which is tolerant of secularism.” This is true, and as an idea it is owned by the Congress.

Unlike the Tories and Labour in the UK or Republicans and Democrats in the US, we don’t have division by ideology in Hindu middle-class society. More:

After the fall

In the wake of an historic defeat, can India’s communists finally break with the hidebound dogmas of their past? Ramachandra Guha in Caravan:

The recent defeat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala and especially in West Bengal—where it ruled for 34 uninterrupted years—calls for a detached, dispassionate analysis of the party’s place in the history of modern India.

In what manner, and to what extent, did politicians committed in theory to the construction of a one-party state reconcile themselves in practice to bourgeois democracy? What were the sources of the CPI(M)’s electoral appeal in Kerala and West Bengal? How were its policies constrained or enabled by its ideology of Marxism-Leninism? How should this ideology be rethought or reworked in the light of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the manifest attachment of the people of India to multiparty democracy? How might the CPI(M) restore and reinvent itself after these electoral reversals in Kerala and West Bengal?

In seeking to answer these questions, I shall start with the analysis of a printed text. This is apposite, since Marxists are as much in thrall to the printed word, or Word, as are fundamentalist Muslims or Christians. True, their God had more than one Messenger, and these messengers wrote multiple Holy Books. Withal, like Christianity and Islam, Marxism is a faith whose practice is very heavily determined by its texts. Thus, communists the world over justify their actions on the basis of this or that passage in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin or Mao.

It was the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre who first drew attention to the parallels between a professedly secular belief system and religious doctrine. In a 1968 book called Marxism and Christianity, MacIntyre observed that “creedal uniformity, as in religion, often seems to be valued by Marxists for its own sake”. He added that this secular creed, like its religious counterpart, endowed its adherents with an emancipatory role denied to individuals who believed in more humdrum ideologies. To quote MacIntrye, “both Marxism and Christianity rescue individual lives from the insignificance of finitude…by showing the individual that he has or can have some role in a world-historical drama.” In this, Marxism and Christianity are akin to one another, and to Islam, whose devoted or dogmatic adherents likewise believe that their life and death find meaning and fulfilment in a pleasure-filled and enemy-free utopia. More:

Also in Caravan: Scenes from the last days of communism in West Bengal

The art of dying

As in life, Jyoti Basu was astoundingly lucky in death. Sandipan Deb in Open:

As in life, so in death. The timing of his death is Jyoti Basu’s parting shot to all his critics, the final proof that, communist or not, he was born under some very powerful stars. In the nine years since he stepped down as CM, the Left Front in West Bengal has steadily crumbled under the weight of his political, economic and social legacy. Buddhadeb’s downfall has been the direct result of his trying to loosen the state from the Gordian knots Basu had tied it up in, so that the people of West Bengal could have a better quality of life. But the knots had been secured over 23 years, and won’t come off that fast, for Jyotibabu had changed the very mentality of a race, turning a progressive people into frogs in the well. Yet, no criticism was ever directed at him as he rested at home. More:

The last journey of Jyoti Basu

Manini Chatterjee in The Telegraph:

There was no hysterical outpouring of raw grief, no unruly outburst of manufactured emotion, no orchestrated display of organisational might.

Today’s moving and fitting tribute to Jyoti Basu — Bengal’s most enduring icon and among the foremost national leaders of post-Independence India — came not from the three-volley rifle salute nor the galaxy of leaders and VVIPs who thronged the bedecked stage in the Assembly before a huge battery of television cameras.

It came, instead, from lakhs and lakhs of ordinary people — men and women from the city and its suburbs, from distant villages and far-flung districts — who stood patiently in serpentine queues and lined every inch of the roads his last journey meandered through, having gathered in silent clusters along the entire route.

Most of them had come on their own, not shepherded by local party bosses as to a Maidan rally; some of them had never voted for the CPM in their lives, and many had ceased to vote Red in recent years. Yet they came, in an unceasing flow from early morning till journey’s end at 4.40 in the evening, to pay a homage that was spontaneous yet sombre, heartfelt but restrained and entirely in keeping with the persona of the man they had come to say goodbye to.

An era had come to an end, they knew, and they had come to make their tryst with history. More:

Jyoti Basu: 1914-2010

Jyoti Basu, who ruled Bengal for a record 23 years but was stopped by his party from becoming Prime Minister, died today minutes before noon after a 17-day battle with pneumonia. He was 95. As he had wished, his body will be donated to the medical school. [Full story here]

Below, from The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Born to charm

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in The Telegraph:

Manmohan Singh once adapted a famous comment about Britain’s R.A. Butler to say that Jyoti Basu was the best prime minister India had never had. The prime minister may long ago have outgrown that personal view privately expressed before he held a governmental position; but there is no denying that Basu had a panache that never failed to impress. This writer too waxed eulogistic about the former chief minister in an anthology published about 15 years ago. It’s only when West Bengal is compared to other states that doubts about Basu’s long stewardship creep in.

People who worked with him in his early years in politics say he strove to model himself on Bidhan Chandra Roy, his hero. If so, the main resemblance was in his relationship with his party. Basu towered over his comrades as Roy had done over other Congressmen. He also had a broader perspective than other Bengali Marxists. Legend had it that he was on first-name terms with Indira Gandhi, whom he had known as a student in England. Others (P.N. Haksar, Bhupesh Gupta, Mohan Kumaramangalam) had also fallen under Rajani Palme Dutt’s spell and returned to join either politics (Congress or communist), law or the civil service. But surrounded by sycophantic civil servants, Basu was intolerant of independent appraisals. More:

Master of the politics of feasibility

Ashok Mitra, a younger comrade, pays homage to Jyoti Basu.

India is to be without Jyoti Basu. The new reality will not sink easily into most minds. For most of the past half-a-century, the man had filled a crucial spot in the country’s political landscape. It was a movable spot since circumstances were evolving all the time, but the picture would never be complete without this man’s position and point of view. Allies, permanent or temporary, would be there to seek his counsel. Adversaries, too, would be aware of the differences and the weight of his views. The general feeling of a lack of coordinates, which has accompanied the announcement of his passing, is therefore understandable. This vacuum of feelings will, however, be different from person to person. That too owes to the magic of his persona. He had a way of interacting on the individual plane with whomever he met.

And this is perhaps what charisma is about. After Subhas Chandra Bose, Jyoti Basu was the next idol the Bengali masses created and clung to. More

A patriarch remembered

Gopal Krishna Gandhi, till recently the governor of West Bengal:

“See my condition,” he said, “I have to meet you like this, sitting on my bed.” It was the day prior to his 95th birthday. “I can’t hear in one ear, and can’t see in one eye.” “You are not missing much,” I suggested, “there is so much around us one doesn’t want to hear and so much one does not like to see.” He smiled a wan smile, a variant of the dry smile of his that has been the photographer’s despair. I am not sure he had heard me.

When I went to call on him again on December 13, 2009, a day prior to my demitting office, he was weaker. He started the conversation by saying, “I cannot see, I cannot hear…” More

CPM’s Vajpayee? More like CPM’s Advani

And in The Indian Express, Saubhik Chakrabarti:

The biggest scandal in 30-plus years of Left rule in Bengal (of which two-thirds saw Basu as CM) is not poor industrial progress but the fate of the aam aadmi. There are tons of statistics. A few will make the point.

A warning first. Whenever Bengal’s data is assessed it is useful to remember Kolkata (Calcutta during Basu’s days in office) is an outlier, being by Bengal’s standards far richer and more modern than the rest of the state. To understand Bengal, one should look at its other 18 districts.

Consider, for instance, that Bengal’s official Human Development Report estimates that over 78% of Purulia’s population is below the poverty line. This is a shocking statistic for a state ruled for 20-plus years by a progressive moderate CM, whose policy centrepiece was agrarian change. Overall poverty levels in Bengal are better only compared to states like Bihar, UP, MP, Orissa and Jharkhand.

Bengal does poorly in schooling — its dropout rates for primary students are worse than all states save Bihar and some North-eastern states. Assam has more schools per lakh people. Himachal Pradesh has a better teacher-student ratio. More:

Long, lonely march

Somnath Chatterjee’s resolve to hold on, despite the onslaught by his Communist comrades has enhanced his stature, writes Diptosh Majumdar in The Indian Express 

One doesn’t know what happens to Somnath Chatterjee from here. Even after his expulsion, he is constitutionally under no obligation to give up his office. After having battled so admirably with a Stalinist party structure, one would hope he stays on. He has expressed a desire not to continue in politics after next year; he must continue to adorn that chair which befits the stature he has acquired over the years.

Chatterjee has scored heavily in the past month simply by holding on, by being able to brave the onslaught of the party. He has demonstrated beyond doubt that he can take on apparatchiks and will, under no circumstances, mix his politics with his constitutional responsibilities. He has carefully stayed away from media glare and has avoided making unnecessary statements. He has not been drawn into any political discussions on his probable change in stance. It is quite possible that given the option, he would have actively pursued the Jyoti Basu line. He wouldn’t have been pushed easily into voting with the BJP.