September 07, 2008
How CPM ruined W. Bengal
By H.S. Mehtani
30 years of Communism in West Bengal. A first person account
In 1960, I joined Durgapur Steel Plant in West Bengal. The educated class of Bengalies was proud to say that 40 per cent of revenue to national exchequer was collected from Kolkata. It was true because of the economic development in the eastern region of the country during British rule. Number of industries like tea, oil, jute and steel plants were established in West Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Orissa. Apart from this there was a development of mining industry like coal, iron ore, lime stone and dolomite in these areas.
Kolkata, a renowned seaport, was the nerve centre for all these business activities. The corporate and other marketing offices of these industries were situated in this city and with this a good number of exim houses also came up. So Kolkata was rightly called the financial capital of the country till the end of 1950’s.
After Independence, the central government during first and second Five Year Plans still invested a lot in this region, particularly in West Bengal, to give further boost to economic development. Number of industries were set up in public and private sector. The area between Asansol and Burdwan was created as an economic zone, where Durgapur Steel Plant, Alloysteel Plant, Mining and Allied Machinery Corporation, West Bengal Coke ovens, D.V.C. Thermal Power Station, Philips Carbon Black, Shankey Wheels, Associated Vikers and Babcock and many more industries came up. Industrial licenses were issued to still more business houses in West Bengal.
In 1961, after the death of Dr BC Roy, the then Chief Minister and a great Congress leader, there was no other leader in Congress party who could inspire the intelligensia and create the dedicated cadres at grass root level. Shri PC Sen, who took over as Chief Minister, was not so effective. Shri Atulya Ghosh, another great Congress leader, remained only busy in Central Committees in Delhi.
There was almost a vacuum in West Bengal polities, which gave an opportunity to rising communists under the leadership of Shri Jyoti Basu and Shri Pramod Dasgupta, who succeeded to train and motivate their cadres under the banners of AITUC to work on the principles of Marxism to bring under their fold the industrial and farm labour. A lot of Marxist literature was floated which also drew the attention of educated class. They embarked on vigorous propaganda, by dubbing all persons other than their cadres and followers, as capitalists, pro-American and CIA Agents. The people holding administrative posts in government offices, business houses and industries were considered anti-people, anti-poor, anti-peasants and anti-workers. For them the Marxism was fighting for the cause of peasants and workers of the world.
This worked like magic. In 1962 election, Marxists registered threefold increase in strength by winning about seventy seats in West Bengal assembly. This success made them more offensive. They shouted slogans like “Power lies in the barrel of the gun”, “We will break the Constitution from within”, “Democracy is for capitalists”, side by side they developed militancy in their cadres, who were brainwashed with Marxist ideals like Talibans, who are brainwashed with Islamic ideals. Both are fundamentalists and believe in gun culture.
In 1962, when China attacked India and captured a large territory in the Himalayas, every citizen of the country felt his pride greatly hurt and expressed anger against the government’s military unpreparedness, resulting in crushing defeat. But the Marxists had different feelings. For them it was a victory of Chinese PLA, who were fighting for the peasants and workers of the world against the pro-American, pro-capitalists and anti-people government headed by Pt. Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India. They believed rather India was an aggressor and occupying Chinese territory. As it shows today they kept mum during Chinese recent incursions and their claim over Sikkim and Arunachal.
In 1963, differences between Russians and Chinese surfaced. Russians called Chinese as expansionists and Chinese called Russians as revisionists. This also brought cracks in the Communist Party of India, ultimately in 1964 resulting in division (1) Communist Party of India, Pro-Russia, supported by AITUC union. (2) Communist Party (Marxists) pro-China supported by CITU union. In West Bengal, CPI leaders were Shri Bhupesh Gupta, Shri Inderjeet Gupta and Shri Hiranya Mukherjee and CPM was led by Shri Jyoti Basu and Shri Pramod Dasgupta. They faught elections since 1967 under separate identities.
The year 1967 was an election year. Congress in West Bengal was completely in doldrums with demoralised cadres. Shri Ajoy Mukherjee, a great Gandhian leader in Congress, left the party and promoted a separate party called Bangla Congress. There were number of parties in election fray like Congress, Bangla Congress (known as rightists) and CPM, CPI, Forward Block, Forward Block (Marxists), SUCI and Workers Party of India (known as leftists). There had been bloody fights among themselves against the encroachment of each others area of influence. Ideologically each leftist party claimed to be the real Marxist against others.
Election results were as expected. Congress lost heavily. No party could muster a majority to form the government of its own. At last all parties other than Congress decided to form the coalition government headed by Shri Ajoy Mukherjee of Bangla Congress as Chief Minister and Shri Jyoti Basu of CPM as Deputy Chief Minister.
The time Shri Ajoy Mukherjee took the oath of CM, the very next moment he realised that comrades were hard nuts to break. He faced stiff opposition from coalition constituents, particularly CPM. Though Shri Mukherjee was a Gandhian and a very simple man, but was still dubbed as bourgeois, anti-people and anti-poor, because he did not approve the Mao’s methodology to spread the communism in the state. There was virtually no agenda—for good governance, law and order and development. Comrades had only one agenda, to spread their wings all over the state by force. Managers in government offices, industries, business houses suffered from fear psychosis. Demonstrations, strikes and stoppage in work were rampant. The CPM controlled labour union CITU, attained a monster-like look. This started down fall in economic activity, as the capital started fleeing from the state. The day-to-day work in the state almost came to grinding halt. Ultimately in 1969 the Governor, at the instance of central government, dissolved the West Bengal assembly and President’s rule was imposed.
After this the brainwashed CPM Talibans had completely a free hand. They tried to increase further the area under influence and control resulting in tough fights with other leftists in their constituencies. Private armies were raised and number of people were killed. The top leader of Forward Block Shri Chit Kumar Basu was stabbed to death on the busy street near Park Circus at Kolkata. The news of killing in country side was being reported almost every day in the newspapers.
In the assembly election in 1969, CPM emerged as a single largest party. Congress came with much reduced strength and Bangla Congress was almost wiped out. CPM again formed the coalition government with CPI, RSP, Forward Block and Froward Block (Marxist). This gave the chance to comrade Jyoti Basu to lead the state as a Chief Minister. But their way of working remained the same. There was completely work to rule in the offices, industries, mines etc. Industries became sick. Managers became sick, they were hooted, hackled and sometimes lynched to death. People became so much unsecured that by evening all will run to their houses. Markets, roads and streets would give a deserted look. Government’s attitude was quite indifferent. On March 25, 1970, there was a bloody scuffle between PAC and workers of Durgapur Steel Plant who violently demonstrated against automotion. About 50 persons were seriously injured and hospitalised. Shri Krishnapada Ghosh (the son-in-law of CPM Party Chief Shri Pramod Dasgupta) a minister, who was sent for a visit to take the stock of the situation, only met with injured workers and not the injured officers and PAC jawans. Imagine the plight of the common man, when government was so virulent in behaviour. The conditions were so bad that Durgapur Steel Plant was hardly operating at 60 per cent of installed capacity, whereas Bokaro Steel Plant, about 70 km away in Bihar was operating at more than 90 per cent of installed capacity that time. Can comrades say that low production in Durgapur Steel Plant was for American’s loss?
Shri Pramod Dasgupta, the CPM party chief, was very fiery and aggressive and had more followings in CITU union of CPM. This resulted lesser control of Jyoti Basu as Chief Minister on the officers and staff of Writers Building and other government offices. The Marxists had still only one point agenda to fight against the bourgeois in West Bengal and at Delhi.
But, so much lawlessness for years together in the state ultimately scared the people, as they were not leading a peaceful life. Centre and State relations were not at all cordial. This once again brought the state under President’s rule by early 1971.
CPM and CITU unions continued their terrorising tactics. Rallies and processions against the central government were regular features. Two Sen brothers of Congress, were brutally killed in Burdwan. So much of scare was created that Congress with great difficulty could get candidates for nomination for election due to fear of being killed, as it happened to number of their workers after filling nominations. Then Congress adopted a new strategy. They pushed the candidates under ground after filling nominations in their constituencies. Thus they fought election almost without any election campaign.
Election results were astonishing for the whole West Bengal as well as India. People expressed their anger through ballots. Congress came out victorious in more than hundred seats. This boosted the morale of their cadres, who came out of their hideouts to face the angry CPM cadres, with bloody blows. The membership of INTUC, the Congress led union, swelled. Shri Jyoti Basu again became the Chief Minister supported by the other left parties. Conditions remained still the same and there had been no endeavour on the part of the government to improve the deteriorating law and order. But, reading the people’s mind in West Bengal Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, again imposed President’s rule. In elections held in early 1973, the Congress came out victorious with a brute majority, which formed the government headed by Shri Sidharth Shankar Roy as Chief Minister.
Confident CPM cadres never expected it. The crushing defeat made their leadership to realise that people want law and order, peaceful life and good governance. So although they still followed Marxism, but shed the violence and tried better contacts with the people. This was not liked by the hardliners in the party. A new party called “Naxalitas” under the leadership of Charumajundar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal emerged on the scene. They were the dead enemy of CPM. They were dealt with iron hand by the government at Centre.
In 1977, the conditions in the country took the U turn. Congress was not only defeated at Centre, but also all over northern India, including West Bengal, due to promulgation of Emergency in 1975. Shri Jyoti Basu was again on the Chief Minister’s chair. After that he did not look back. He ruled the state for about twenty five years. The state is still under leftists rule headed by Shri Buddhdeb Bhattacharjee of CPM as Chief Minister. During Jyoti Basu’s time there has been negligible progress in the state, but presently Shri Buddhdeb Bhattacharjee has realised that IT, telecom, energy, automobile and infrastructure are the areas which need to be looked for development, but is not achieving the desired results because of the Marxism to which they are still holding. Violent incidents at Singur and Nandigram do testify its irrelevance.
Finally coming to the point which I started writing, whether, Kolkata is still the financial capital of the country, which it used to be in 50’s. No, not at all. All the focus for investments shifted towards western region of the country. Where the professionals inspired by nationalism brought the economic development and prosperity in the last fifty years. In this period West Bengal remained mostly destablised. Marxism has actually proved to be the anti-poor and anti-development.
It was said “what Bengal does today, India will do tomorrow”. It is true, but not with the teachings of Marxism. It will be true only by following the path shown by the sons of Bengal like Vivekananda, Netaji, Tagore, etc.
(The author can be contacted at 89/7, East Punjabi Bagh, New Delhi-110 026.)