The ‘living legends’ of Communism missing at Coimbatore

March 28th, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by admin  

By Monobina Gupta
New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) At the venue of the 19th congress of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in Coimbatore, it will be business as usual - except that a sprightly Jyoti Basu in his spotless white dhoti and kurta will not take the red salute. Neither will his friend and comrade of decades, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, who five years ago handed over charge of the party to his junior colleague Prakash Karat at the 18th party congress in New Delhi.

Their absence, in many ways, is like turning the last page of a chapter of Communist history, going back to the days when the party was born with Basu and Surjeet among its founder members. That was 1964.

Today both the “living legends”, as the CPI-M would like to describe them, are physically too weak to travel down to Coimbatore, the venue of the 19th congress, and sit through the seven-day deliberations.

Two years ago, Basu, now 93, gave up the post of West Bengal’s chief minister. Now he wants to quit his position as a member of the politburo, the CPI-M’s highest decision-making body.

“But we want to benefit from his experience. It is unlikely that the party will accept Basu’s request,” said Hanan Mollah, CPI-M central committee member and Lok Sabha MP.

Left Front chairperson and CPI-M state secretary Biman Bose said the same. Basu was too important to lose as a politburo member. Karat, the party’s general secretary, rushed to Kolkata as soon as he got a whiff of Basu’s wish to coax the ailing patriarch to stay on.

Surjeet, 92, too, continues to remain in the politburo, even though he has not been able to attend any meeting for a long time.

Insiders in the CPI-M, a Stalinist party that shuns flexibility, said Surjeet and Basu were bound not only by decades of struggle, but also by a common perception of Indian politics. They were bound by the fact that till recently both were always in a desperate minority within the CPI-M.

In 1996, when Basu missed becoming the first Communist prime minister of India by a whisker because his party shot down the proposal, it was defeat for not only Basu but also Surjeet.

Then general secretary of the party Surjeet confided to a senior Left leader that the younger generation of comrades in the CPI-M, steeped in Stalinism, do not know what India and its politics is all about.

The Surjeet-Basu duo, post Babri Masjid demolition, got the CPI-M to jettison its twin-danger politics of tarring the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with the same brush. The CPI-M, at last, recognised the BJP as its “main political adversary”.

Just when the tenure of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is drawing to a close, two of its main architects who worked on the party to lend its support to the Congress to keep the BJP out, will be missing from the CPI-M’s marathon brain-storming session beginning Saturday.

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