The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Politburo and policy check on Buddha
- Red blip on reforms

New Delhi, April 11: Globalisation, yes, but not quite the way Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wants it.

For the man who set his heart on Deng Xiaoping's model of fast-track reforms, the CPM congress did not end exactly on a happy note.

The party wants him to be more cautious in wooing capital. And it has ensured that it has a policy framework and a politburo to rein him in.

With a politburo headed by Prakash Karat and with reform-sceptics like Chittabrata Mazumdar and M.K. Pandhe, Bhattacharjee's reform drive is bound to stagger.

These mandarins will be ably supported in their neo-conservatism by the ones from Kerala who are known to have been unhappy with what they considered an overzealous reforms path. The inclusion of Mazumdar in the politburo gives away the check-Bhattacharjee campaign.

His enthusiasm for strikes and old-style trade union rhetoric has been anathema to Bhattacharjee. At the conference of the party's Bengal unit in February, he was dropped both from the state committee and the state secretariat. But he is now back in a more powerful position, thanks perhaps to Karat, Pandhe and others in the politburo who share his views on reforms.

Brinda Karat may not be quite in the same mould, but she may end up strengthening the hands ' and the line ' of the conservatives.

Publicly, though, the party maintains that neither Karat's elevation as general secretary nor the new politburo would make a difference to the party's attitude to Bhattacharjee's reforms.

'It's always been collective leadership,' Karat and Sitaram Yechury, also a politburo member, replied today to queries about the fate of Bhattacharjee's agenda.

The policy check on Bhattacharjee came in a document that sets the guidelines under which party-ruled governments embrace capital, particularly foreign capital.

As Yechury, the author of the policy on foreign capital and related issues, put it, 'the imperialist agencies' come with aid packages to the communist-led governments to 'help them out of their fiscal predicament'.

Beware of the trap, the party seems to have told Bhattacharjee.

The advice to him is: go in for foreign capital or aid only if it comes without strings. So, if the British DFID offers aid packages but insists that sick units are to be closed or the number of employees have to be drastically reduced, that is not acceptable.

If WHO offers to pay for the recast of the primary healthcare system, Bhattacharjee had better be cautious. Much the same warnings against NGOs and self-help groups.

In a way, it is a reversal to the CPM's suspicion about these non-state players engaging in the dubious game of 'depoliticising' people and undercutting the state.

Bhattacharjee had started walking a different way. With the state government's finances in a mess and its infrastructure failing to cope with the challenge, he had initiated a shift to engage NGOs and self-help groups in many areas. The party has now cried halt to this initiative.

All this, however, signals the dilemma the party has been grappling with. There is no stopping globalisation and privatisation, but how do the party and its governments carry on with their ideological politics in the teeth of capital's onslaught.

A complete and unqualified surrender to capital would mean the end of the road for the party's politics. The anxiety shows also in the party congress's decision to revise its ideological document, which was drawn up in 1992 in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and other communist regimes in east Europe.

So what the party has done to stop Bhattacharjee on his tracks, if not completely, is actually the CPM's attempt to reinvent itself in the time of globalisation.

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