Friday, June 01, 2007

Birla, Ambani and Achuthanandan

By John Cheeran
Despite Monsoon, Kerala’s current political climate remains hot. Anti-bourgeoisie grandstanding is a box-office hit there. CPI (M)’s Chief Minister incumbent V.S. Achuthanadan is against the rich and might in Kerala.
Achuthanandan has been declaiming that Ambani’s Reliance will not be welcomed in Kerala to open their retail chain. V S wants to get applause from the thousands of retailers in Kerala who act as obscurantist middlemen as far as consumers are concerned. And these retailers rarely contribute to the tax kitty.
Once Reliance comes to Kerala, these retailers will have to shut their shops, though it will take a long time to happen such a thing. Consumers will and should get a better value from for their money from hypermarkets such as Reliance is planning.
To oppose such business ventures, as Achuthanandan and his acolytes are doing, is not good Communism or good economics. I’m afraid that CPI (M) secretary Pinaryi Vijayan can, for once, see eye-to-eye with his bete noire on handcuffing Anil Ambani.
But is that the course the LDF, and CPI (M) in particular, must be adopting when Kerala is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first democratically elected Communist government in the world?
Let me remind comrades that EMS Namboodiripad as Chief Minister of Kerala in 1957 wooed north Indian industrialists to set shops in the state. EMS always believed in subjecting the society to the hammer blows of industrialization, ostensibly to advance the class struggle. But the point is that EMS also wanted Kerala to prosper and to that end he was willing to set aside puerile dogmas. Comrades did not hesitate to woo the private sector in 1957.
Let me quote from Sarvepalli Gopal’s biography of Jawaharlal Nehru, volume 3.
“Curiously what gave the planning commission concern was that the state government appeared to be unduly favouring the private sector. The Birla group was given permission to set up a wood-pulp plant, and plans were drawn up to invite a private company to construct a refinery for the manufacture of lubricating oil, in contravention of the industrial policy of the Government of India. There was, in fact little that was Communist in the official activities of the state ministry and even the Communist Party disapproved of some provisions of the agreement with the Birla Group.”
Ah, how I wish VS Achuthanandan abandoned his phoney ideological posturing and build on the advantages that Kerala has.

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