By Harihar Swarup
Why former West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, a hardcore Marist, declined to accept Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award, bestowed on him by BJP-led Central Government? He put forward a feeble excuse for rejecting the prestigious award, saying he was not informed about it. This is no excuse as there is no provision of taking consent for giving Padma Awards. One possible reason may be political; the BJP and Marxists are ideologically pole’s apart, almost hating each other. Apparently a staunch Marxist like Buddhadeb would not like to be seen receiving an award, even a prestigious one, from the BJP government.
Born in 1944, Buddhadeb belongs to a family which had produced another famous son, Revolutionary poet Sukanta Bhattacharjee. Though born in North Calcutta, Buddhadeb’s ancestral home is in Bangladesh and he studied Bengali literature in Presidency College, Kolkata. Later, he joined CPI-M as a primary member. Besides, taking part in the student movement, he was also active in party organization. He was appointed state secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation, the youth wing of the CPI(M).
Buddhadeb’s record as Chief Minister for ten years after Jyoti Basu retired, has its twists and turns. He took the biggest risk of his political career by embarking upon the industrialization drive to change the face of West Bengal, which has agriculture as primary source of income. He deviated from the standard Marxist doctrine to invite foreign and national capital to set up factories in the state evicting farmers from the fertile agricultural land. Notably among them was the world’s cheapest car, Tata Nano, from a small hamlet, near Kolkata, called Singur.
There were other proposals too, such as country’s largest integrated steel plant in Salboni, West Midnapur district by Jindal group and a chemical hub at Nayachar after it faced agrarian resistance in Nandigram . However, his plan backfired, and his party along with Front partners, suffered heavy losses in 2009 Lok Sabha election. In 2011 state assembly election, he was defeated by Trinamool Congress candidate Manish Gupta, and CPI-M lost power in the state. He was relieved from his posts on the Politburo and Central Committee at the 21st party congress, organized in Visakhapatnam in 2015 due to health reasons.
In January 2006 the Supreme Court issued notice to the Left Front Government including Buddhadeb and others in relation to land allotment made in the Salt Lake City township in Kolkata. Buddhadeb’s government came under heavy criticism for police action against demonstrators in Nandigram. He was criticized not only by opposition parties and Left Front allies, who threatened to back out from the ministry on the issue, but also by his mentor and state’s former chief minister, Jyoti Basu.
On March 15, 2007, Basu criticized Buddhadeb for failing to restrain the police in Nandigram. Buddhadeb expressed regret for the shooting, but claimed he permitted police action because Nandigram was an “area where there has been no rule of law and no presence of administration for one, two or ten days but for two-and-half-a-month, and many hundreds of villagers left Nandigram, and took shelter in state relief camp outside Nandigram.”
Actually, Buddhadeb declared that land in Nandigram won’t be acquired by ordering the Nandigram notification to be torn apart. Still police were not allowed to enter Nandigram. Roads were dug up, preventing administration from entering the area. The CPI-M declared that they were totally behind Buddhadeb and had drawn up plans to placate his critics in Left Front.
Buddhadeb, will be 78 on March 1. He is virtually recluse for the last five years because of his heart and lung problems. He may not have led the Left Front Government to victory in 2011 assembly elections, but he is considered by all as an honest, erudite cultured person who tried to chart out a new path of industrialization for the state, but failed. (IPA Service)