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Left,Right together in anti-Bt protest

The controversy over Bt brinjal has brought the two political extremes — Leftist parties like the CPI and CPM,and Rightist organisations like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch — on one side.

Written by Amrita Chaudhry | Ludhiana | February 5, 2010 11:35:00 pm

Cadres of the two political extremes were seen raising anti-Bt brinjal slogans at a recent public hearing by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh

The controversy over Bt brinjal has brought the two political extremes — Leftist parties like the CPI and CPM,and Rightist organisations like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch — on one side. In a rare instance,cadres of both were seen raising anti-Bt brinjal slogans at a recent public hearing by Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh at Chandigarh. The bonhomie may have come to public notice only at that meet,but the Left and Right have been on the forefront of the anti-Bt agitation in the state,together,for a long time now.

Umendra Dutt,who runs an NGO Kheti Virasat Mission,has been the torch-bearer of the anti-Bt protest in Punjab. He has been a member of the RSS,and has also served as the editor of Swadeshi,the mouthpiece of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. He claims that he has broken away from the Sangh,but he still has the backing of the Parivar. At the same time,he has roped in prominent Leftist groups and leaders for the campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops.

Dr Arun Mitra and D P Maur of the CPI,Dr Pyare Lal and Lehmber Singh Taggr of the CPM,Joginder Singh Ugrahan of Bhartiya Kissan Union-Ugrahan,Balkar Singh Dakonda of the CPI (ML) and the Punjab Kissan Union leaders are with him at most of the meetings he conducts,where a fair number of Right-wingers are present as well,including workers of the Bhartiya Kissan Sangh.

Subhash Sharma,co-convener of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch,the body that led the protest at the Chandigarh public hearing,explains this unity as “an old friendship”. “The extreme Left and Right have always held the same ideology as far as economic issues are concerned. Be it be the entry of MNCs,the nuclear deal,the Patent Act,Seed Act and now the entry of Bt brinjal,we hold similar views. Thus our coming together is natural,” he adds.

He cites the recent example of the nuclear deal trust vote where “the Left and the BJP voted together against the Congress government”.

Leftist ideologue Prof Jagmohan Singh,nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh,says,“For us the cause is greater than the path. We are against the imperialistic designs of the government to rob the poor of food. Any other group helping us in this cause is welcome.”

The CPM has extended support for organisations opposing cultivation of Bt brinjal in Punjab. Punjab CPM Secretary Charan Singh Virdi,in a recent statement,said,“The Centre should not play into the hands of multi-national companies favouring its (Bt brinjal’s) commercial introduction in the country.The party is not against science and technology,but new inventions should be used for the benefit of humanity after proper tests.”

Amidst this cacophony,political scientist Dr Harish Puri has a word of caution. He says,“It is because of the sheer failure of the Left leaders that they now have to stand alongside the Right. The Left could lose credibility by fighting for this cause alongside the Right.”

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