Corruption, CPI(M) and Neoliberalism: Sankar Ray

Guest post by SANKAR RAY

Prasenjit Bose, chief of research cell, central committee of CPI(M) deserves kudos for his article Corruption and Forbearance under Neoliberalism, published in the journal of The Centre for Policy Analysis, and reproduced in However, corruption is not an exclusive phenomenon under the capitalist system. Socialist countries – I mean the social orders encouraged by the Third International – were also afflicted by corruption, not to speak of People’s Republic of China (both in Mao and post-Mao years). Even the CPI(M)-led governments in Kerala and West Bengal never waged a principled war against corruption.  Hence Bose’s inference that “the state under the neoliberal regime has increasingly become a vehicle for capital accumulation and also a site for primitive accumulation, by the established corporate players as well as new entrants to the big business club” – is only half the truth.

Let me refer to CPI(M)’s authentic documents. Its Kolkata district committee on 8 August 2007 issued a ‘strictly confidential’ circular no 32/2007 asking comrades to combat disunity (read factionalism) through canons of ethics and morality.  Setting out the modalities of conducting the branch, local and zonal committee conferences in the run-up to the 22nd West Bengal state conference of the party (13-18 January, 2008) and then the 19th party congress at Coimbatore in the last week of March next year, it said ,“ There are some workers inside the party who make use of party link for their livelihood and socio-economic gains. They are involved in sale of lands, houses and building materials, filling-up of water bodies, meddling and taking sides in the landlord-tenant disputes and resort to intimidation”. Such powerful comrades at local, district and even state levels, “create obstruction to setting up of factories, discover grounds for artificial troubles in factories or establishments tendentiously, sacrifice workers’ interests for personal gains, indulge in monetary extortion using the party connection without receipts, set up real estate-promoting business areas by virtue of their positions in party organizational hierarchy or setting up discreetly unethical relations with realtors, illegaly occupy land on the plea of helping local clubs,  drink and get drunk in the open and create bonhomie with the police and dreaded anti-socials”, the document added.In his article, Bose quotes Rabindranath Tagore and unwittingly got entrapped in his own loop.

“Onnay je kore ar onnay je shohe tobo ghrina jeno tare trinoshomo dohe”

(Those who commit injustice and those who forbear it, Let them blaze like hay in the fire of your indignation)

– Rabindranath Tagore, Nyayadanda, 1901

Although one agrees to his views that neo-liberal capitalism paves the way for crony capitalism but the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, a CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, often defended ‘globalisation’ as something like ‘a must’. He argued for capitalism as the inescapable path of development, skipping another hard truth that capitalism today cannot have any variant other than the neo-liberal mode. So the Left Front government is conducive to the neo-liberal or crony-capitalist style of corruption.

But corruption began in a wanton fashion during the chief ministership of Jyoti Basu, who patronized the emergence of a nouveau riche through the real estate route. Take the case of an influential income-tax officer who openly masqueraded as an Income Tax Commissioner in parties and sophisticated clubs. He became a promoter while working as an ITO. He was close to Basu whom he called Jyoti Uncle. And using this bonhomie, he used to manipulate posting and transfer of offices under the West Bengal Police Service Cadre (including promotee IPS officers). A former chief secretary, not a direct IAS but recruited from defence personnel, used to dance to this gentleman’s tune.  Let me quote from a personal communication with an ex-senior former member of Indian Revenue Service, revered for his impeccable integrity. “He brokered the transfers and postings of West Bengal cadre IAS-IPS officers (and the lower minions) because of his influence over the Marxist Rasputin. His several flats were fitted  with arrangements for photographing the goings-on inside. Officers (including direct recruit IRS officers and their spouses), all ‘ate out of his hands’ and were all along and for ever beholden to the ‘great and magnanimous’: His fleet of cars, flats and collection of Bengali tinsel heroines were at the service of the officers-with choicest wines.”

Small wonder, he accompanied Basu on a trip to the UK with a diplomatic passport.

All this happened in the early 1980s.

Investigations against this gentleman at the I-T department were conducted in 1985-86 during  VP Singh’s cleansing drive (although that ended as a damp squib because of the myopic mindset of Singh himself as it was not done departments other than I-T). However, the probe report against Jyotibabu’s close confidante ran into three parts – more than 1000 pages, much of it handwritten. The aforesaid chief secretary, occasionally writing post-editorials in a new Bengali daily, threatened those who were associated with the probe. To go a little adrift, he was among the beneficiaries of satta don Rashid Khan, now in jail (arrested after the blast in 1993 near the Kolkata police headquarters) – this being revealed in the diaries and registers, seized by the police.

The senior IRS officer who authored the report went on an official trip to the UK in 1989. “I was authoritatively shown adjacent flats in a very posh locality in London-one belonging to Jyoti Basu and another to Mr X [the gentleman referred to above]”, he stated in another message to this writer. Instead of being punished, this gentleman was allowed to submit a petition for voluntary superannuation.

The senior IRS officer was sent on deputation – strangely after filing the probe report – but was back to his parent department in end -1991. “I came to learn that the man travelled by Y class-flight and stayed at the Taj Coromandel  for a couple of days right on the opposite side of I-T state headquarters in Madras to  apply for leave and VRS and  threw gala parties in his hotel. His petition was accepted.”

But forget West Bengal. Take Kerala which doesn’t lag behind in inculcating habits “alien to revolutionaries”  Consider the Rs two crore deal between the party’s daily Desabhimani and the absconding  lottery mafia don Santiago, exposed by  Kerala’s second-most circulated language daily Mathrubhumi. Factional adherents of state party boss Pinarayi Vijayan and polit bureau member had swung into action employing hoodlums by attacking Mathrubhumi office . Disrobing himself of his academic pose, the  state finance minister T. M. Thomas Isaac made a cover-up bid on the floor of  the state assembly in end June assuring that the  drive against unauthorised lottery operators and tax defaulters would go on.  Within a short time thereafter, another scandal  was unearthed. Vijayan had struck an understanding with an NRI who discreetly bought the  Roman Catholic daily Deepika to counter Mathrubhoomi. The former was set to be its new chairman. The new management began publishing  inspired front-page new items and editorials  against Vijayan’s factional rival, chief minister V S Achuthanandan. But the hornet’s nest was stirred when a convention under the aegis of the Inter-Church Council held in Kottayam witnessed angry slogans against the shady deal, naming the NRI and Vijayan. Revelations on the mauled chief vigilance commissioner P V Thomas whose appointment was mala fide suggest that the Left Democratic Front government was never willing to bust the scandal that had its roots in the era of Congress chief minister K Karunakaran.

So Bose’ silence towards Basu’s questionable record, using his position as the CM and dictator of CPI(M), and read along with the quotation from Tagore reflects his chicanery.

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