Friday, March 01, 2013

I celebrate CPI(M) victory in Tripura

            In the midst of an animated debate on the sad state of our economy and P.Chidambaram’s acumen, that the anchors were orchestrating on our national TV channels, there was news coming from remote Tripura of a landslide win for the CPI(M). The anchors attributed the victory to Manik Sarkar and recalled his affidavit (filed by him along with his nomination papers). is sad that the anchors did not know about such legends as Nripen Chakraborty and Dasrath Deb, who founded the communist movement in Tripura long before independence and the princely state of Tripura was integrated into the Indian union.
            Sarkar’s colleague in the CPI(M) Politburo, Brinda Karat, expressed her happiness but insisted that the victory belonged to the party and not to Sarkar. Well. It may be the CPI(M)’s belief that individuals do not matter. And the party may continue to believe in that. But then, that is not the truth and the history of the communist movement in India as well as the world  is replete with examples to the contrary. Ernesto Che Guavara, Ho Chi Minh, Daniel Ortega, Salvador Allende and Fidel Castro, to name only a few, were accorded iconic status by communists; and in our own land, we have had such leaders as Singaravelu Chettiar, A.K.Gopalan, P.Sundarayya and EMS Namboodiripad, once again to name only a few, turning into icons and their stature lending strength to the communist movement.
            Likewise, it is a fact that the communist movement in Tripura was built into a people’s movement by such leaders as Nripen Chakroborty and Dasrath Deb Burman (both of whom were Chief Ministers of the State in the past; and that Manik Sarkar followed these legends, joined the Students Federation of India (SFI), lived the way the legends lived and thus ensured that the CPI(M) remained a party of the people. In many ways, Manik Sarkar is different from many others in his own party. He belongs to the league of Gandhians in the communist movement.
            It may sound anachronistic; but is a fact. Almost all the iconic personalities of the communist movement in India happened to live an austere and simple life and there is no doubt that they took it from the Mahatma. As it was in the case of Gandhi, the icons from the communist movement ensured that they did not amass wealth, that their children did not grow rich abusing the positions and that they did not make it big in the party or in politics because they happened to be children of leaders. I can take a bet on this.
            It is also a fact that this great quality is not found in most others who emerged as leaders in the communist movement as much as it did not apply to several of the leaders in the Congress party too. It is possible to hold, without fear of being contradicted that  corruption, in the sense of amassing wealth disproportionate to means, is a feature that marks the lives of a number of communist leaders across India. It is also a fact that a large number of them are contemptuous of Gandhi and his political ideals. Lest be misunderstood, this is not an attribute of the communists alone. Corruption, in fact, is a common attribute of the political class and the fact is that there are more leaders from the communist movement who are not corrupt.
            The CPI(M)’s victory in Tripura, even after the party was routed in West Bengal a couple of years ago, has to do with more factors than just the clean image that Manik Sarkar personifies. It has to do with the fact that unlike in West Bengal, the communists in Tripura did not turn desperate to ``develop’’ and reduce development to indiscriminate building of factories and shopping malls. In other words, Manik Sarkar, like the two other legends who steered the communist movement in the State – Nripen Chakroborty and Dasrath Deb – did not believe in first reducing Tripura into a capitalist hub before working for the revolution. That was what Buddhadeb Bhattacharya did in West Bengal and caused the CPI(M)’s rout after 37 years of Left rule. That was what a Pinarayi Vijayan pushed for in Kerala and ensured the CPI(M)’s defeat despite all the goodwill that the party had enjoyed thanks to V.S.Achutanandan.
            It is imperative to recall one another thing. Nripen Chakraborty vacated the Chief Minister’s residence in Agartala, when he ceased to be the head of the State Government, with just a small steel trunk containing a few sets of clothes and some books. This was the case with Kamaraj too. And P.Sundarayya, who inherited several acres of land, did not possess any of that when he died. EMS Namboodiripad too belonged to that league. Well. That was Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy and a number of communists inherited that while a whole generation of Congressmen simply reduced Gandhi to the cap and starched khadi kurtas and shirts.
            The CPI(M)’s victory in Tripura is good news for the important reason that Gandhian politics is still alive and should give hope to all those outside the electoral political space to persist with Gandhi’s ideas and take them into the mainstream. Manik Sarkar has proved that it is possible to rule a state without amassing wealth and win elections that way.