Interview with CPI(M) State Secretary and Central Committee Member

  Shri Bijan Dhar


“Why not 51? But certainly the tally can not be more than sixty” said CPI (M) state secretary and central committee member Bijan Dhar with a confident smile, when asked to assess the left front’s prospects in the upcoming assembly polls. A man, known for his sharp intellect and vibrant wit, Bijan has been leading the CPI (M)’s formidable organization with aplomb over the past nine years. His observation in an article in party organ ‘Daily Desher Katha’ on expelled stalwart Nripen Chakraborty’s fulminations against the party is still wistfully recalled by political commentariat. ‘Embracing Leninism is easy but remaining a Leninist all through one’s life is not so’ Dhar had said in his article. A party member since the year 1969, Bijan Dhar was the president of SFI at a time when incumbent chief minister Manik Sarkar was the secretary. Having served a brief jail term during emergency, Dhar had been the secretary of Sonamura divisional committee of CPI (M) since 1978 after Samar Chowdhury had become a minister of the 1st left front government. A state secretariat member since 1993, central committee member since 2002, Dhar became the state party secretary in 2008 by dint of his vast experience of working at the grassroot level. An excellent communicator, Dhar took time off his hectic daily schedule to give glimpses of his political ideas yesterday in a frank and free-wheeling interview with :-



Question: What is your assessment of the political situation in the state in the context of the upcoming assembly elections? How many seats do the left front expect to win?


Answer: As for seats, why not 51 for the left front? Certainly we can not hope to secure more than 60 (smiling). A change in the situation is tangible in that earlier we saw only the left front and its front organizations active in political programmes throughout the year while opposition parties, mainly the Congress, would become visible only in the run-up to the state assembly elections. This time, however, BJP seems to have become politically active with full backing and support from the RSS and the BJP-led central government. BJP is trying to occupy the entire opposition space while other parties have clearly cracked. But the BJP will try to create trouble by sparking communal polarization as also by resorting to other harmful tactics. Politically, BJP is an unknown entity in Tripura but its fascist and communal ideology may cause harm to the state. We are however alert to the danger and our past two monthlong programme has evoked massive response. So we can reasonably hope to improve our tally in the assembly polls up to at least fifty one from the present 50 though (smiling) the tally can not go beyond sixty.


Question: It seems other non-left political parties are unable to check the growth of BJP. Is not this borne out by the failure of Congress in facing the BJP?


Answer: Actually Congress’s failure to face BJP is due to its neo-liberal economic policies and resultant suffering of people, rank corruption and continued compromise with communal forces and issues. The way Congress had allowed the ‘stone laying ceremony’ or so-called ‘Karseva’ in 1989 and allowed in 1986 the reopening of the closed gates of ‘Babri Maszid’ and finally the demolition of the structure on December 6 1992 paved the way for growth of communalism and its purveyor, the BJP. For our part, we did our best and have been trying our best to fight the evil of communalism and its political extension represented by BJP but, there is no denying the fact that, our countrywide strength is limited . In our areas of influence we have been trying our best and will keep on trying to keep the evils of communalism and fascism in check. There are regional parties that could have come forward to fight the menace of communalism but their agenda is narrow and they have also compromised, specially scenting opportunities in the neo-liberal economic order. Keeping all these things in mind we make self-criticism in our party fora to ensure continued growth of our party. Besides, the most potent threat to socio-economic progress of the country and political stability is that both indigenous and foreign bourgeoisie and capitalist elements have been supporting the BJP whole hog. This may be a temporary phase but currently it is there-too visible to ignore.


Question: The judicial termination of the services of 10,323 teachers has come as a big blow. Do not you think this may have a repercussion at the political level in an election year?


Answer: All such developments have an impact or repercussion, as you say, on politics and we are aware of that. The root of the problem was the recruitment policy which had been put in place after the advent of left front in political power for the first time in 1978. We had a three-point thrust for recruitment to government services : 70% weightage for merit cum seniority and 30% weightage for need or needy people. Now we are convinced we did the right thing in view of Tripura’s socio-economic condition where need must be considered a big factor for employment in government services as also for giving other benefits. The judicial view may be different but one must remember that even those who moved court against the jobs of teachers could not bring any charge of corruption in giving jobs. But, as party has already assured the prospectively retrenched teachers, we are with them and we will stand by them. Now if a question is raised on how we are with the teachers and how we will help them I would not answer the question. But we do have a strategy and policy framework within the parameters set by the supreme court to protect the jobs but this can not be disclosed at this stage because there is a very strong possibility that cases will be filed in court to subvert the process. There is no dearth of people who were happy over the supreme court verdict prospectively terminating so many teachers from service and, what is amazing is that, a section of people, specially BJP elements in Dharmanagar, openly celebrated the termination of jobs by indulging in fire-works. What can be more disgraceful for a political party than celebrating the suffering of people? Apart from the teachers rendered jobless, their families, close relatives, banks and even businessmen now face a stark threat to their existence from this order on termination. But we will stand by the teachers till the end.


Question: The employees and pensioners in the state seem to be looking for a major hike in their dues and many of them are discontented over denial of hikes in pay and pension. Do you think this can impact the left front’s poll prospects in 2018? Many states have already implemented the recommendations of the 7th central pay commission.


Answer: The hopes and aspirations of the employees and pensioners are nothing wrong, they are entitled to this. But the state government has been responding well to their demands by giving them two installments of dearness allowance (DA) every year. Earlier , the recommendations of the Pay Review Committee (PRC) were implemented in 2009, giving a major boost to the pay, allowances and pension of employees and retired employees. The main trouble is that no fund is sanctioned under the head of this or that allowance for employees by centre  the fund comes under the generic name of ‘administrative expenses’. Even the 13th finance commission refused to reimburse genuine expenses incurred by the state government on several heads though the finance commissions are task-bound to reimburse genuine expenses. Apart from this, the abolition of the planning commission by the present NDA government in centre has posed a major problem as earlier during annual or five year plan sanctions the planning commission used to allow creation of new posts and recruitment to services with funds given in advance as part of implementation. This opportunity is now gone and, secondly, the ‘NIti Ayog’ works by fits and starts, there are no clear or definite parameters within which the ‘Niti Ayog’ will function or sanction funds. So it is not possible to incur expenses whose reimbursement is uncertain by centre. Actually the state government will need an additional expense of Rs 1200 crores for implementing the recommendations of 7th central pay commission and we can not do this unless the centre sanctions the full amount.

Besides, there is a question of priority which a party or government has to follow. We fully sympathise with the employees and pensioners and the state government will do its best to satisfy them. But we have to consider the plight of people who have nothing to fall back upon and have to take care of their basic needs. This is the moot point of our priority. Regarding the question of regularization in service, raised from time to time by the opposition, I can say that without being assured of full financial support from centre we can not move ahead on this front. But as it is, the employees who remain irregular are getting all other benefits at par with regular employees, the only difference is that upon retirement they will not be entitled to pension and gratuity. But in case centre comes forward to help , we will have no hesitation in fulfilling their aspirations. You must also remember that despite ban imposed by centre we have not stopped recruiting people to government services and the process will be on.


Question: A set of fissiparous demands like the separate ‘Twipraland’ state are being raised by regional parties. How will they impact the polls and how do you propose to deal with such issues?


Answer: This is nothing new as earlier demand for ‘Swadhin Tripura’ (free Tripura) was raised but this came to nought. The harsh truth is that whenever Congress was out of power in Delhi like in 1977, this party encouraged all fissiparous forces including the slain Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other insurgent outfits to put the incumbent central government or non-Congress state governments in trouble. This told upon national interest and later rebounded on Congress itself as manifested in the assassination of prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. No political party should with play with fire that may ultimately singe the nation. What the present BJP government is doing on this front will be clear soon but already Modi in centre and Yogi Adityanath in UP have made it amply clear that they believe in and thrive on the dangerous politics of polarization and communal division. This coupled with BJP’s pro-corporate political stance is harming the nation. The people of this country will have to be united against the dangerous politics of BJP and its like-minded parties to save the secular fabric of the nation as well as to protect the constitution.


Question: What do you think will help in resolving the crisis or problems faced by the nation? Currently, there seems to be no alternative to BJP.


Answer: BJP or its brand of politics is only a symptom of the deeper malaise afflicting the capitalist form of economic development. Many years back in 1848 Marx had come out with the ‘Communist Manifesto’ and a series of sensational and refreshingly original masterpieces that authentically analysed the crisis created by capitalism for human societies. This holds good even now. Even though capitalism has managed to survive and flourish with the help of technology and clever manipulation in various ways, the crisis continues to manifest itself in continuing poverty, backwardness, clashes based on ethnicity, religion, war and mass murder. Capitalism can not overcome the twin threats of unbridled population growth and multiplication of problems. So it is only socialism and the path shown by Marx that can save humanity by minimizing its plethora of problems. We do believe in this and our stand is vindicated by the developments that followed the so-called fall of Soviet Russia, East Europe and the socialist order therein. Those who celebrated the fall and gloated over it are now silent as capitalism has faltered and created new problems for humanity. Hence socialism is the solution.