With Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, a consistent opponent of bandhs, now under the weather, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has rather disingenuously turned the clock back to the 1960s by calling for a 24-hour industrial strike on Wednesday or Bharat bandh, if you will. It has, in point of fact, opted for a form of agitprop that has been rendered antediluvian over the past 60 years, reaffirming the fact that the party is caught in a time-warp.
Far from lending an impetus to industry, the bandh shall only inconvenience hoi-polloi, once the CPI-M’s support base. Likewise, the daily wage-earner and the unorganised sector generally will have to brace for the loss of a day’s income. So much for economic/industrial growth and development. The party’s strategy runs counter to the thesis of Nobel Laureates, Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee and Esther Duflo (Good Economics for Hard Times).
Most particularly the point that “money needs to get into the hands of people so that the demand side gets going”. A bandh can only hinder, rather than spur, the supply and demand curve. The Left praxis fully bears out what Banerjee and Duflo call Poor Economics, indeed their previous book. Once the most astute party on the political spectrum, Gopalan Bhavan, given its remote control over Alimuddin Street, was expected to be more cautious with its praxis.
With Kerala now the party’s lone flag-bearer, a convincing response cannot be expected anywhere else in the country not least in Tripura (under the BJP after 25 years of CPIM rule) and West Bengal. Any response, if at all, can only be disruptive given the possibility of a truncated fleet of urban transportation. It will nonetheless be open to question whether the extent of the bandh would have been quite total had the Left linked its daylong agitation to the turmoil over the citizenship issue, now almost endemic.
Suffice it to register that Mamata Banerjee’s spirited movement against the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship Amendment Act would have underwhelmed the CPI-M shilpa dharmaghat. A bandh, rather ironically in support of industrial welfare, flies in the face of the flavour of the season. Even the speculation that the Trinamul Congress might lend tacit support to the CPI-M’s programme was well and truly punctured on Monday with the West Bengal government’s stern directive to all state employees to report for duty.
The parable to be drawn on Wednesday is that the party must of necessity trim its sails to the winds of change, just as it has jettisoned the gherao culture that was all too frequently manifest till the early 1970s. Maybe the gherao was the brainchild of the Socialist Unity Centre (SUC), which has drifted away from the conventional Left. And the conventional Left must now take a call on the efficacy of the bandh, if at all. No, West Bengal or any other part of the country can scarcely afford to be rendered out of joint for 24 hours. The CPI-M must effect a forward movement.