Veteran's absence to hit crisis-ridden Bengal CPM

Basu’s death is largely being seen as a possible blow to the unity among a disparate group of communists who face a tough assembly election next year in West Bengal, a traditional Left stronghold.

With a torrid slide in popularity and the meteoric rise of CPM’s arch rival Trinamool Congress staring at the face, questions are rumbling across the corridors of power whether the bastion of Indian Communism is set to crumble.

Basu played the role of an elderly patriarch whose more mature, considered view and ability to retain the broadbase of support were very important. Basu retired from active politics a decade ago, but his towering stature retained its unifying influence among Leftist groups and he continued to play what often seemed the role of a crisis manager and political arbitrator.

“Without him I doubt if the Left unity in India, especially in West Bengal, would survive,” Kshiti Goswami, West Bengal PWD minister and a coalition ally, told Deccan Herald.
Goswami was not very far from the truth; dissenting voices that used to give muted reactions, have increasingly becoming louder. And the anti-incumbency has finally caught up with the ruling Left coalition in West Bengal, which has been in power for the last 33 years.

In the headquarters of the CPM at Alimuddin Street where the meeting room is adorned with portraits of Stalin, Marx, Engels and Lenin,there is also a bust of Mao and a painting of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, with red banners of the hammer and sickle stretched across the walls.

The presence of the short, reticent politician, always seen in a white flowing shift and an Indian wrap-around, rescued the party and the government many crises in the past. As the last surviving member of the “Navratnas”( the nine members of the first CPM politburo), Basu’s success indicated social democracy had a future that communism did not. And the funny side is that the more things change, the more India’s communists remain the same.

A section of the Left coalition partners has publicly alleged that Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee already made a mess of the situation he had been entrusted to tackle. Worse than this is a pronounced tilt within a section of the bureaucracy and police against the Buddhadeb cabinet and unless the Opposition in Trinamool and Congress combine commits a harakiri of sorts, Bengal Communist leaders need to perform a miracle to reverse the trend. With the towering patriarch not around, the prospects appear quite dim.   

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