The Public Law and Policy Discussion Group(PLPDG) had its first guest speaker, Shri Nilotpal Basu from the CPI(M) on the 13th of March. Mr. Basu has been a career leftist, starting with the Students Federation of India(SFI), the student wing of the CPI(M), after which he joined active politics, having even served as a Member of Parliament till 2002. The topic of conversation was, ‘Whether the Left is being Swept Out?’, an obvious reference to the Aam Aadmi Party, which took over the ideological space traditionally occupied by the Left Front, owing to their complete and utter paralysis after the Left Front defeat in West Bengal, and the LDF defeat in Kerala.
Mr. Basu began his discourse on India and the problems we are facing today. The contours of his discussion breached the economy, the attack on our secular fabric, the dangers associated with both the Congress and the BJP and the shocking absence of any ideological difference between the two largest parties. The argument being put forward was that the UPA Government has, in the last six years taken credit for all the measures the Left had lobbied to put into motion and into force. The Right to Information Act, the Rural Employment Guarantee Act and a large part of the Common Minimum Programme was largely perceived to have been the proverbial pound of flesh which the Left was extracting from the Congress for giving outside support to the UPA. Mr. Basu lamented how the same ‘pound of flesh’ became the winning point for the Congress in 2009, as they knew how to appropriate it.
At the same time, he lamented the Nuclear Deal and the Nuclear Liability Bill, giving scientific and empirical evidence against the N-Deal, which he prophesised would cost us dearly in the coming years. At the same time, the government has failed to bring in adequate labour reforms, which were supposed to be ushered in simultaneously with the opening up of the economy, so as to ensure that the benefits of growth trickle down adequately. He believes the same was not even attempted, let alone completed. The discussion then proceeded on to vested interests within the system, and how such crony capitalists had extracted the nations natural resources in exchange for what he calls to be peanuts, to those who suffered the immediate dispossession through takeover of their jal, jangal, zameen, and also the citizen at large who owns the country’s resources. He then concluded to reassure the place of the Left in our polity, and assured us that the current state of affairs would help the Left bounce back and go to even greater heights, and subsequently dismissed the AAP as a seasonal flavour, which would fizzle out soon.
Within an interactive question answer session, Mr. Basu responded to a question on the merging of the CPI and the CPI(M), saying that there are still many issues to be resolved, but if the day might come when such clashes of ideas do not take place anymore, he would welcome it. With regard to another question on the failure of the Left to fill the vacuum of accountability, credibility and ideological strength which had surfaced and loomed large over the last three years, so much so that the AAP formed a government some months after having been formed, Mr. Basu lamented that the Left has always been a rather misunderstood party. At the same time, electoral losses in two vital states had put them in a very weak spot, along with geographical limitations, as the presence of the Left is not uniform across the Nation. Mr. Basu responded to many other questions posed to him, like the Left stand on commodity trading, the classical Leftist confusion of caste and class, the Third Front etc. The discussion was illuminating, and helped clear a lot of misconceptions students had about Leftist strategy in the coming election, and the paralysis in the past years. We look forward to many such discussions in the future.