| Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pays tribute to former deputy Prime Minister Babu Jagjivan Ram on his 20th death anniversary at Samata Sthal in New Delhi on Thursday. Union minister and daughter of Jagjivan Ram, Meera Kumar, is to his right. (PTI)
New Delhi, July 6: Its heroics on the Neyveli Lignite controversy don’t seem to have earned the DMK too many brownie points from the Left.
After giving their southern ally a cursory pat on the back, Left leaders whose protests against the Neyveli divestment were not heeded by the Centre have lined up new tests for the party to prove its sincerity towards progressive causes.
CPM leaders said the DMK would have to stick to the principles it has espoused on the Neyveli divestment issue. This means it must give up its plans to get the Chennai airport modernised through private agencies.
The CPM holds that airports should be modernised only by the Airports Authority of India while the DMK in Chennai and its Union ministers in Delhi have been pro-privatisation.
“The next time the issue of privatisation of airports comes up, we will remind the government and the DMK of their stand on Nalco and Neyveli,” a senior CPM leader said. “DMK minister Dayanidhi Maran also wants FDI (foreign direct investment) in telecommunication.”
CPM leaders aren’t willing to give the DMK too much credit over Neyveli and Nalco, arguing instead that the Centre’s hands were forced primarily by “pressure from below” ' that is, the indefinite strike at Neyveli.
“Factories like Neyveli Lignite are not grocery shops. The government knows it would be difficult to revive them once they are shut down,” Sitaram Yechury stressed.
“The decision of the UPA government' is welcome. We congratulate the employees of the two public sector undertakings for their firm struggle against the disinvestment,” CPM boss Prakash Karat said in a statement.
“We appreciate the stand taken by the Tamil Nadu chief minister, M. Karunanidhi, in defence of the public sector.”
Yechury, however, argued that the DMK couldn’t have ignored the majority opinion within its own labour arm, which happens to be the largest union at Neyveli Lignite.
He claimed it wasn’t just the DMK’s actions but also the Left’s protests that had made a difference. “You retract when the final blow strikes you. But that doesn’t take away the importance of the earlier blows that were delivered.”
Last year, the Left had forced the Centre to revoke a decision to divest shares in Bhel by suspending participation in the UPA-Left coordination committee. This time, it merely announced a week-long “nationwide movement” against the divestment and price rise.
“The programme stands,” Yechury said. “There is still the question of price rise.”