Left in peace (L.I.P.)

Forget ideological shibboleths. The market is the great equaliser. Even politically

Published: Sunday 31 December 2006

-- mamata is on fast. Medha is arrested. Marxists are on a march to the market. Over some motorcars. It is very difficult to stick to any ideology while you are in the quicksand of market. For some time now in Indian politics, the Left managed to give the impression to be on the side of people. For people who had no voice, people who got marginalised by the doctrine of 'growth at any cost', people who are otherwise ignored by opinion and decision makers, the Left was like a speed governor in the breakneck drive to the market.

But land acquisition by Communist Party of India (Marxist) cpi(M) at Singur in West Bengal for a Telco car project puts everything to rest. We should not be surprised. Political economy is no longer contested by political ideologies. The market is the sole guiding force. There is hardly any difference between economic policies of different political forces. Barring a few nations, this is true globally.So, there is no contradiction if Marxists in power behave like others in power. Ideological frills are for those not in power.

Though the Left opposes rampant land acquisition in other states, specially in the wake of Special Economic Zones, they clearly lack a deeper understanding of the problem. Championing the transfer of non-agricultural land smacks of poor understanding, as most of the rural poor depend on these commons. It also appeases relatively more powerful agricultural landowners. There is a larger problem. Compensation is only due to the title holders. What about the vast number of landless who live off those lands?

cpi(m), a main backer of the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill 2005, canvassed to enlarge the scope of the bill to include non-tribal forest dwellers to mitigate a historical injustice of eviction. It will be interesting to see how the same politicians react if the forests were owned by private enterprises.

Statecraft is now clear. Politicians in power endorse growth at any cost and need private enterprises, the real beneficiary to fuel it. The State, with all the power at its disposal, has assumed the role of a go-between. It steps in to provide industry cheap land, but does not allow the market to operate for the powerless.

In this episode, cpi(m), among the few mainstream political parties opossing the economic direction, has lost all moral authority. Singur shows the severe problems with the current process of industrial growth. And our democracy has got violent the electorate need to fight those they have elected everyday.

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