The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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RIP Marx, Mao refuses to rest in peace

Calcutta, April 13: Marx may not have a place in Bengal any more, but Mao refuses to go away.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today that in his official capacity he could not afford to pursue socialism. The pursuit of Maoists, however, is something else which, as police minister, it is his job to conduct.

Speaking at the Calcutta Press Club in the run-up to Assembly polls, Bhattacharjee spoke of successes, failures and future priorities, but it was this irony that stood out.

“As chief minister I cannot pursue socialism here. We are not fools. So, given the ground reality, we have to invite capitalists for the state’s development,” he said. “We have to bring in private and foreign capital for setting up industries.”

At another point in the meet-the-press programme, Bhattacharjee said: “Maoists are a dissipated force these days. But the terror unleashed by Maoists in some of our districts is causing concern.”

If for all of Bengal the catch phrase is “get industry”, in the districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura the slogan is “development”, coupled with efforts to give more teeth to the police force.

It’s a strange situation for the CPM to be in. In the vanguard of the socialist movement once, it has not only had to admit irrelevance of that ideology in a state where it is in power, but also battle forces that on paper have the objective it no longer seeks.

Having embraced the capitalist principle of development ' even if forced by circumstances ' there is no reason for Bhattacharjee to feel “embarrassed” by encomiums showered on him by industrialists, some of whom have called him the best chief minister in the country.

“What do you say' Shall we tell investors do not come here because we are communists'” he asked.

Jyoti Basu backed the chief minister, saying Bhattacharjee was simply toeing the party line. “In fact, what Buddha has said today was mentioned in the industrial policy adopted in 1994 during my tenure as chief minister. We cannot think of socialism, given the situation in the country. So we will have to woo capitalists for investment,” Basu said.

The resolution adopted in the 18th party congress also mentions that socialism is all but impossible since the party is in power in only one province of the country.

In the development model the CPM-led government has adopted now, the condition for success is “harmonious relations” between management and labour. “It is not the management’s responsibility alone to run industry, but labourers should also co-operate so that disputes are settled through discussions,” Bhattacharjee said.

“I can’t encourage militant trade unionism and shut down factories.”

It’s the Maoists on one hand and, to a lesser extent, Citu, his party’s labour union, on the other that constitute the political resistance to the Bhattacharjee line in perhaps a much more serious way than do the Opposition parties, the Trinamul Congress and the Congress.

Disunited and lacking direction, they present little threat to the Left Front in the coming elections, if the chief minister’s confidence is any indication. “I cannot tell you the number of seats the Left Front will win. But our goal is to achieve two-thirds majority.”

Victory would bestow on him greater responsibility, but in the CPM it’s the collective that is more important. While Alimuddin Street, the state party headquarters, does not dictate to him, nor does he take decisions that are his alone.

“I am at liberty to take a decision in consultation with colleagues in the CPM. They do not dictate to me'. Definitely, the party has a say in government policies but it is wrong to say I am being dictated.”

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