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Poster boys do what dads didn’t

- CPM youth wing chooses freedom fighters over communist icons

Durgapur, Jan. 21: CPM youth wing DYFI has used the pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and Lakshmi Sehgal on a poster promoting a run in Durgapur against corruption — a departure from the practice of giving prominence to the party symbol.

The DYFI’s move has triggered a debate on why pictures of those associated with the communist movement were not used.

The DYFI’s Durgapur II east zonal committee will organise the Run For Corruption Free India on January 26, the message and the use of symbols linked to Gandhi bearing similarities with the Aam Aadmi Party’s anti-graft campaign that the CPM thinks it should have started before the AAP.

The DYFI has also decided to hoist the national flag on Republic Day instead of its own flag, another deviation from the usual practice of the Left.

The poster was uploaded and shared by some DYFI workers on Facebook on Saturday, but was removed this evening after a section of CPM leaders criticised the use of the pictures. CPM and DYFI leaders will meet in Durgapur tomorrow to discuss the issue.

The CPM refrains from using pictures of individuals on posters and banners related to political activities, including election campaigns, giving prominence to the party’s symbol.

Some leaders said if at all pictures had to be used, the DYFI could have chosen communist icons like Marx and Lenin and closer home, Jyoti Basu.

DYFI leaders, however, said Gandhi “could not be ignored in the fight against corruption”. Although Gandhi had advocated morality in politics, corruption as such was not a major issue in any of his political campaigns.

CPM veterans in Burdwan said the communists had differences with Gandhi in the pre-independence period.

“We had differences of opinion with Gandhi and so, we never use his picture in our party programmes. The Durgapur chapter of our youth wing did not discuss the matter with us before using Gandhi’s photograph,” a CPM district committee member said.

While Gandhi had walked the path of non-violence, the communists had advocated violent seizure of power and property. After independence, the then communists had said “yeh azaadi jhoothi hai (this independence is meaningless)”.

CPM sources said the use of Netaji’s picture in the poster had also caused embarrassment even though the Forward Bloc is a Left Front partner. After Netaji sought Japan’s help during World War II to free India from British rule, the CPM leadership had called him “Tojo’s (Japanese emperor Hideki Tojo) dog”.

When Netaji joined hands with Hitler’s Germany, the communists dubbed the freedom fighter “Quisling”, a reference to Vidkun Quisling who had collaborated with Nazi Germany to become the ruler of Norway.

Bracketing Bhagat Singh with Gandhi also might not be palatable to the communists as the revolutionary was against the Mahatma’s policy of non-violence.

CPM sources said they did not have any problem with the use of Lakshmi Sehgal’s picture as she had been an active member of the party.

A DYFI leader in Burdwan said the Left should have begun an anti-corruption movement “much before” the AAP. “We could have created a wave with an intense movement. Moreover, what’s wrong if we invoke Gandhi in our fight against corruption?” the leader said.

The DYFI leader, who is also a CPM member, said the party “hardly had any national icon to project”, scoffing at suggestions that the pictures of the late E.M.S. Namboodiripad, P. Sundarayya, Harkishen Singh Surjeet or Jyoti Basu could have been used as they are known to have donated much of their personal wealth and property for furthering the party’s cause.

“We should think beyond our traditional practice and faces. Our party needs to be flexible in these difficult times,” the leader added.

He said the DYFI was planning to change the name of the run to Youth Against Corruption as “some of our leaders have objected to” Run For Corruption Free India. “The leaders said the slogan of corruption-free India had already been used by the AAP,” he said.