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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 6 New Delhi January 30, 2016

Tribute to A.B. Bardhan

Saturday 30 January 2016

It was August 26, 1969. We were at the Palam airport. Distinguished Communist leader and celebrated poet, Maqdoom Mohiuddin, had passed away in a Delhi hospital the previous evening and his body was to be flown to Hyderabad, his work-place. A little earlier it was kept at the CPI’s parliamentary party office at Windsor Place where eminent CPM leaders joined CPI stalwarts, notably S.A. Denge and C. Rajeswara Rao, in offering their last respects to the departed comrade.

At Palam airport where several leading Communist and trade union activists had gathered to see-off the body, one of them, Satish Loomba, a noted figure in the TU movement, asked A.B. Bardhan, another trade unionist from Nagpur, about his age. Bardhan smiled and in his inimitable style replied in Hindi: “Don’t worry, I will be here to bid farewell to you all.” It was indeed prophetic. All the leaders, who were then around Bardhan, have left one by one. The first to go was Satish Loomba himself having perished in a tragic aircrash near the Capital in 1973. (Incidentally, as was the tradition in the earlier days, both Bardhan and Loomba were brilliant students who came into the Communist Party and trade union movement from the students’ front. Of the leaders of that generation Bardhan was among the youngest.)

Bardhan, who passed away on on January 2 this year at the age of 90, was not only the CPI General Secretary from 1996 till the party’s 21st Congress in Patna (2012), but also the seniormost Left Leader in the country commanding deep respect of all Leftists as eloquently brought out by the Forward Bloc General Secretary, Debabrata Biswas, at the all-party condolence meeting on January 19. That respect for him was not confined to the leaders of Left Front constituents—Prof G.N. Saibaba, now being incarcerated in prison on the charge of being a Maoist activist, used to regularly seek Bardhan’s advice on various issues.

Bardhan fought tirelessly for reunification of the communist movement—that means merger of the CPI and CPM in particular—on a principled basis. However, his efforts in that direction did not yield any fruit whatsoever. Today when the Left movement as a whole is in the grip of a deep crisis the best tribute to the departed leader would be to take concrete steps to ensure that reunification at the earliest. A tall order? Perhaps, but a vital one at that.

While offering our deep sympathies to his son Ashok and daughter Dr Alka, we remember him by reproducing excerpts from the interview he gave to Mainstream in August 2008—it appeared in this journal’s Independence Day Special Number that year.

Left Must Do its Utmost to Protect Parliamentary Democracy

by A.B. Bardhan