Does the Left have a Hidden Agenda?

Prakash Karat and Co must be smirking with satisfaction over the damage that they have been inflicting on India's reputation and growth prospects in recent times.

First, by holding the Manmohan Singh government hostage to the Left's anti-American paranoia over the nuclear deal, the Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary and his fellow comrades have demonstrated their capacity to stifle any enterprise at odds with their doctrine.

Secondly, before the Left-dominated Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees' union called off their "non-cooperation", which was a euphemism for a strike, their inaction reduced the conditions at airports to such a shocking state of squalor and delay at the counters that many tourists would have been deterred from visiting India again.

Yet, the agitation was quite unwarranted since the government's "contractual obligation" to close down the old airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad, against which they were protesting, was not the final word on the subject. The only thing that was evident was that these would be less busy since new airports had come in the two cities. This was confirmed when the government agreed with the unions to continue the services, though on a reduced scale. Nor were the job prospects of the existing employees threatened.

But logic or national interest has rarely guided the Communists, who preferred to depend on their ideological imperatives, which told them that, in the long run, the new privately-managed airports would further reveal the inadequacies of the public sector AAI. The exposure would be similar to the manner in which the private airlines have shown up the flaws of the two public sector giants, Air India and Indian Airlines.

It was the same fear which made the Left try to block the entry of private players in diverse fields such as insurance, telecommunications, the financial sector and so on. Yet, ever since the opening up of the economy in 1991, the consumers have realised that one needn't wait for months to get an insurance refund or a telephone connection or at least a day to get a bank draft made.

What is more, the consumers have also seen that greater competition has made even the public sector more efficient and their staff more courteous. However, the employers of these units, used to their old lethargic ways and their habit of going on strike over the flimsiest of excuses, obviously see the "neo-liberal" economy with its mantra - the consumer is king - as an ideological challenge.

They are also egged on by the leaders of the CPI-M and other leftist parties who have always nurtured the trade unions as the strong arm of their politics to browbeat the employers and underline their "revolutionary" credo. It was the militancy of these unions which led to the flight of capital from Left-ruled West Bengal in the 1960s and 70s, a disastrous event which the present-day, more pragmatic CPI-M leaders of the state are trying to rectify.

But so bent are the trade unions on their irresponsible ways that their latest effort is to spread their stifling tentacles into the 24x7, 'the city never sleeps' IT sector. However, if West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee of the CPI-M is trying to resist the unions on this point, it is because of the realisation that hurting the sector would scare away other investors as well.

But hawkish leaders like Karat are seemingly not bothered about the setback to the economy that the unions may cause with their reckless tactics. Their view is that the post-1991 market-oriented economy is the handiwork of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which, in turn, are the front paws of American imperialism in leftist eyes.

It is the bugbear of US hegemony that is also behind the Left's objections to the nuclear deal. By threatening to withdraw support to the government, the Left is holding up the implementation of one of the most innovative pieces of international agreement, which intends to lift the sanctions imposed on India for its nuclear tests of 1974 and 1998 and allow it to enter into pacts with the nuclear "haves" on the supply of nuclear fuel to its power stations.

What is more, India's nuclear weapons programme will not be hampered in any way, except for the conduct of overground tests, since six of the country's 14 reactors will be beyond the jurisdiction of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

If the Left manages to prevent any forward movement on the deal, it will not only condemn India to an energy crisis in view of depleting fossil fuel resources but also ensure that the country will continue to be deprived of advanced technology because of the 34-year-old sanctions. 

But that's not all. Where the Left will hurt India the most is in ensuring that it will forever remain a notch or two below China, which is the only country among the Big Five which is apparently not too pleased with the prospect of India attaining a virtual equal status with the nuclear "haves".

Considering that the CPI-M has fraternal relations with the Chinese Communist party, it is perhaps possible to discern the kind of ideological loyalty based on mythical proletarian solidarity ("workers of the world, unite!"), which guides the Indian comrades.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at aganguli@mail.co


More by :  Amulya Ganguli

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