Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 22, Dated Jun 06, 2009
‘The CPI(M) Has To
Change Its Attitude
To Win Bengal’
The communists have always spoken in a
unified voice. Defying norms, a CPI(M) cabinet
minister is now speaking out against
the party. In his second term as Land and
Land Reforms Minister, Abdur Rezzak
Mollah, 67, is perhaps the lone voice of dissent
within the CPI(M). The son of peasants
who cultivated paddy and vegetables, his
political journey began when he joined the
CPI(M) farmers’ union as a student of Calcutta
University. A minister in the Bengal
government since 1982, he has stalled land
acquisition projects in his assembly constituency
by threatening to resign. In a candid
interview, he tells TUSHA MITTAL why
his party may not return to power.
What factors lead to the CPI(M)’s
unprecedented defeat in Bengal?
This happened because of land acquisition.
The shift of 27 percent of the minority
vote to the Trinamool Congress
also played a role. Young Muslims are
unhappy with the CPI(M) because they
are not getting equal opportunities. The
opposition clearly explained the contents
of the Sachar Committee report.
Has the CPI(M) begun to consider Mamata
Banerjee a real political threat?
What role did she play in the defeat?
This Mamata is a new Mamata. She is
more mature and politically savvy. She has
learnt how to handle issues. Her slogan of
Maa, mati, manush (mother, land, people)
connected with the voters. They have
faith in her. She is obviously a threat to the
CPI(M). People voted in favour of Mamata,
not in favour of the Trinamool Congress.
Were you against the acquisition of
land in Nandigram and Singur? How
would you do it differently?
I was against it, but they did not
listen to me. Land is the most important thing to farmers — they
value it more than their sons and daughters.
We should not acquire fertile land,
only dry barren land. The government
should pick the land and purchase it
directly. Why should we allow industrialists
What is your view on the idea of SEZs?
SEZs are not good because local people
don’t get any facilities or income.
The companies export
their products outside and engage
their own labour. They do
not create jobs for the locals.
What you are saying is significant. It
completely contradicts the Bengal
government line. Are others in the
party starting to agree with you?
I said these things earlier but nobody listened
to me. Even now, total realisation is
not there. Nandigram and Singur should
be the biggest impetus to stop haphazard
Is there a rethink on industrialisation?
Will we see major policy changes ahead of the 2011 state polls?
There will no major changes in the industrialisation
policy. However, there is a fear
that if land acquisition continues they will
be defeated in the 2011 assembly elections.
(A project to build a City Centre in
Kharagpur was stalled by the CM himself)
I am sure the CPI(M) will not come back to
power if we continue the same policies.
What is the new ‘land bank’
The government is mapping
land to identify fertile areas —
multiple crop, single-crop, and
arid land, so we know where to look for
barren land. The idea was there before,
but now it is a necessity.
Why has the CPI(M) moved away from
its pro-poor ideology, from its mass
base of farmers and labourers?
The party has no connection with the land
because they are all upper middle class intellectuals.
They don’t know anything
about labour and agriculture.
How has this shift happened?
It’s because the majority of the leadership
is from the middle class. They are not
B-class, but A-class. They think industrialisation
is essential, and that it will bring
unemployed youth to our fold. This cannot
work. We are also facing a problem of
organization. Several party members —
brokers, dalals, promoters; people whose
interests don’t represent the interests of
the farmers — are getting positions without
being accomplished. The party should
be free from nepotism. The new cadres we
recruited are not politically educated and
don’t understand the party programme.
The CPI(M) is seen as an arrogant party
where dissent is not tolerated. People
in Bengal associate it with ‘dadagiri’
(bullying). Does this concern you?
There is some corruption and high handedness
within the party rank and file. The
local leaders have begun to think of themselves
as the lords of their areas. We have
to take specific steps to address this, or we
will not be voted back to power. I am
saying it openly: if we want win
2011 state polls, we have
to change our attitude
within the party.