(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 11, 2010
THE unprecedented success of the countrywide hartal against price rise on July 5 has provoked a string of absurd reactions from our political opponents in the government. Instead of accepting the fact that this spontaneous outburst of anger by the vast majority of the common people must be addressed in right earnest by making efforts to halt the price rise and improve the living conditions of the people, the Congress and some of its allies in the government, ably assisted by sections of the corporate media and the pen pushers of India Inc., have resorted to hurling baseless charges against us.
In this regard, the Trinamul Congress and its chief take the cake. Rattled by the spontaneous response in West Bengal, far surpassing the state’s usual response to hartals against the anti-people policies of the government, the Trinamul chief accused the CPI(M) of being “hand in glove with the communal party”. Committing a Freudian slip, she invoked her party’s election symbol and said that the CPI(M) and BJP are “two flowers on the same stalk”.
Such temerity from a person who, in the first place, facilitated the formation of a government by the communal forces led by Vajpayee in 1998! Having served as a union cabinet minister, holding the same portfolio that she now holds in the Congress-led UPA government, she left the NDA in order to align with the Congress for the West Bengal state assembly elections in 2001. Soon after this alliance was trounced, she abandoned the Congress to rejoin the NDA, in the aftermath of the communal genocide in Gujarat. Having been an opportunistic bedfellow of the BJP, she now has the gumption to attack the CPI(M) as “collaborating with the BJP”!
Let us set the record straight. As is well-known, the CPI(M) and the Left parties along with their secular opposition allies had given the call for this nationwide hartal. Later, the BJP and its NDA allies gave a similar call on the same date. Further, this call for a hartal came as a culmination of an over year-long campaign against price rise conducted by the Left parties. On several occasions, this issue was raised in the parliament. However, met by a callous response by the government in parliament, the Left parties decided to mount pressure on the government through popular protests and struggles. A massive `march to parliament’ was organised on March 12, 2010. This was followed by a nationwide `jail bharo’ campaign on April 8 in which over 25 lakh volunteers of the Left parties participated. This was followed by a call by the Left parties for a nationwide hartal on April 27. This present hartal has come after the recent hike in the prices of petro products in defiance of all arguments in parliament and protests outside falling on the deaf ears of the government.
The CPI(M)’s credentials in fighting communalism and uncompromisingly upholding the secular democratic character of modern India is known to all. It must be recollected that in the 2004 general elections, of the 61 Left MPs in the Lok Sabha, 54 won by defeating the Congress candidates. Yet, in order to prevent the communal forces from staking claim to form the government again, the Left parties extended outside support to a secular government headed by the very same Congress party. This is despite the fact that in the Left strongholds of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, it is the Congress which is the main political adversary. Such is the commitment of the CPI(M) to uphold the secular democratic character of modern India. Having cohabited with the BJP in the past, the Trinamul Congress is cynically trying to spread patent falsehoods to muster support from the religious minorities in West Bengal.
Several Congress leaders have also been making similar fabricated charges against the CPI(M). In this context, it is necessary to recollect that in 1996, the CPI(M) and the Left played the crucial role in forming the United Front government in order to prevent the continuation of the government headed by Vajpayee which lasted a mere 13 days. The Congress party had then assured the country and the president of India that it would support this secular combination from the outside for its full term. However, it betrayed its own assurance and withdrew support in 1998 to pave the way for the formation of the BJP-led NDA government. If the Congress had not thus betrayed, then the assumption to office by a government of the communal forces would never had happened in 1998.
Such absurd politicking and motivated anti-Communist campaigns apart, it needs to be underlined that this nationwide hartal was called on the issue of the relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities. The immediate provocation for the hartal is the massive hike in the prices of petroleum products which, as already endorsed by sections of the mainstream media, is already having a cascading impact on prices sending the inflationary spiral higher. On all such attacks on the livelihood of the people, the CPI(M) along with its Left and secular allies had gone in for popular public protest actions in order to force the government to rollback such attacks. The protection and improvement of people’s livelihood is at the core of CPI(M)’s political practice.
On the issue of the hike in the petro prices, the CPI(M) had always protested – whether while supporting the United Front government from the outside, while opposing the BJP-led NDA government or again while supporting the UPA-I government for four years and later opposing their anti-people policies including those of the UPA-II – on the ground that they impose severe hardships on the people.
As noted in these columns last week, the proposal for the deregulation of the petrol product prices during the United Front government in 1996-98, was accompanied by the abolition of all taxes on imported petroleum products. This proposal was put into effect in April 2002 by the Vajpayee government, only partially, without reducing the taxes on imported petroleum products. This resulted in petrol prices increasing by 21 times and diesel prices by 24 times during the NDA tenure. The CPI(M) and its secular allies had organised countrywide protests against these unprecedented extra burdens being imposed on the people through such hikes. On many occasions, other parties, including the Congress, synchronised their actions with the protests organised by the CPI(M) and the Left. So rattled was the then NDA government that on February 21, 2004 in the face of imminent general elections, it put out advertisements in the media making a commitment for no further increases in LPG and kerosene prices.
The fact of the matter is simple. Irrespective of who is in government, the CPI(M) will uncompromisingly champion the interests of the people and organise popular protests against all policies that impose greater economic burdens on the people. Unlike the crass opportunism of our political adversaries, such attacks on the people’s livelihood are not matters of political alignments or adjustments for the CPI(M). These are matters concerning the quality of life of our people – whose continuous improvement remains the firm unequivocal commitment of the CPI(M), a commitment that goes hand-in-hand with an equally firm commitment to safeguard and strengthen the secular democratic character of modern India in the face of any assault on this by the communal forces.
(July 07, 2010)