Published in Frontier, August 7, 1972
The Dangeites have always been good at gimmicks. And they did it again – in Bihar. However, the recent drama enacted in the state capital was not taken seriously by any body, including the CPI member themselves.
The first act of the drama, described as “a competition in phoney radicalism”, included letters exchanged between the Bihar unit of the CPI and the Congress (R) regarding the “controversy” over two “radical” bills on the reduction of land ceiling and fixing a ceiling on urban property.
The Congressmen were a party to it in the first act as much as their communist comrade-in-arms.
But the second act was written, directed, acted and produced by the party bosses at Ajoy Bhavan, the Bihar headquarters of the Dangeites: the party decided to withdraw its support from the Congress (R)-led progressive Vidhayak Dal Ministry following a Cabinet decision to scrap the Dutta Inquiry Commission.
But alas! nobody took the CPI gimmicks seriously. Soon enough Mr N. K. Krishnan of the CPI Central Committee announced that the party was yet to take a final decision about its stand in Bihar.
Though the final act of the drama is yet to come, it can well be forecast that the CPI would be back in the fold of the Congress (R)-led alliance.
Why these gimmicks? The 1972 elections are not too far off.
However, it is not just that.
In their “war of statements” Mr Jagannath Sarkar, the Secretary of the Bihar CPI, and the State Congress (R) boss, Mr Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav, were emphatic about their ‘radical’ postures and their readiness to implement measures of radical reform without delay.
Mr Yadav sought to convey the impression that the measures would by this time have been implemented but for the fact that the CPI leader Mr Sunil Mukherjee’s suggestion for referring the matter to a select committee of the legislature.
Urban rich comrades
It has been pointed out that the CPI reluctance about the bills – particularly that regarding the imposition of a ceiling on urban property – is caused by pressure from its rich urban members. In Patna alone, for instance, a very staunch supporter of the CPI owns a number of houses worth over crores of rupees.
But the feudal and urban bourgeoisie supposed to be affected by the ceiling laws had no reason to lose their sleep. First of all, the bills in their present form are not likely to stand the test in a court of law unless the Constitution is amended.
And perhaps that is why even the diehard rightists accepted the idea of adopting the two measures before the Assembly was adjourned.
The second fact from which the kulaks could draw more satisfaction is that the so-called laws are likely to remain unimplemented like the old ones. Bihar has known a law on land ceiling for years now. It has remained unimplemented. How, then, is the new law – which is to be more ‘radical’ in nature – going to be enforced?
No tax on kulaks
Again, it has not been explained satisfactorily by the official champions of ‘radicalism’ why a measure that could have been enacted and implemented much more easily – the imposition of a progressive rate of agricultural taxation – does not figure much in their talks.
Similarly, the imposition of a land revenue with a progressively higher rate of incidence for larger holdings would have achieved part of the objective, i.e., reduction of inequality. Since, however these measures would be effective there is no discussion on them in the public competition for ‘radicalism’.
The House was ultimately adjourned sine die and the two bills could not be passed. The CPI accused the Congress (R) leaders of surrendering to the vested interests in their party; the Indicate – while making excuses on the ground of a strike by the Assembly staff – accused the communists of trying to dictate terms.
CPI withdraws support
While all this controversy was going on, the CPI announced withdrawal of its support from the PVD Ministry under quite a different pretext – scrapping of the Dutta Commission of Enquiry into charges of misuse of Bharat Sevak Samaj funds by the Union Minister of Foreign Trade, Mr L. N. Mishra, and a former Bihar Minister.
Had the CPI been genuinely agitated over the Commission’s fate, how could the party secretary say, as he did, that “the CPI is even now prepared support all progressive measures of the Government while firmly resisting its anti-people measures?”
Even the CPI leaders themselves admitted later on that withdrawal of the inquiry – a “politically motivated” step of the erstwhile SVD Ministry – was not such a powerful irritant to the party as to justify its breakaway from the PVD.
Then what was the real cause behind the drama?
When the Shastri Government agreed to promulgate ordinances for the implementation of the ceiling measures. the CPI bosses were in a quandary. For, they to up their militant postures for the benefit of their restive cadres. So, they made a pretext of the Dutta Commission.
The Kerala Angle
Even after announcing withdrawal of support, the CPI has not yet been able make up its mind about its political stand. One of the reasons is undoubtedly the fear about the fate of the CPI-led ministry in Kerala which is wholly dependent on the goodwill of the ruling Congress.
The Congress (R) may not be magnanimous enough to bolster up a CPI ministry in one State after being snubbed by it in another. Unless the Bihar Dangeites are greater radicals than they have appeared to be so long, one will not be surprised to find them back in the fold of the Congress (R) alliance for which Mr Sarkar’s statement provides an escape clause.
However, this small drama revealed many things. One of them was that the present PVD Ministry does not live on the mercy of the CPI. The Congress (R)-led Ministry has many supporters in the ‘reserve’ quota, who may rush in to help if needed. These ‘reserve’ quota members are better known as habitual defectors.
Many of the mini-parties including the arch-reactionary Janta Party, the Sambrui faction of the Jharkhand Party, the Jharkhand, Shoshit Dal etc, who were in the erstwhile SVD Ministry offered their support to the Chief Minister, Mr Bhola Paswan Shastri, when the life of the Bihar Assembly was supposedly threatened by the CPI gimmicks. The plea these defectors use now-a-days for supporting this or that Government is their “opposition to President’s rule.”
Meanwhile, there are rumours of a mid-term poll along with the Vidhan Sabha election in other States next year for installing a “stable” government. In view of the dog-fight within the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee, the Paswan-headed ninth Government in Bihar since the last general election is not regarded as “stable” by New Delhi.
Frontier, August 7, 1971
Frontier 7 August 1971