Updated: November 1, 2019 7:41:06 am
Gurudas Dasgupta, the veteran CPI leader who passed away in Kolkata today, was a powerful voice of the Left in Parliament for close to three decades since the mid-1980s, tirelessly fighting against and exposing the governments of the day. An indefatigable crusader against corporate corruption and economic offences, Dasgupta was also a champion of working-class movement, who brought together labour outfits belonging to all political shades.
Dasgupta began his political career as a student activist in Kolkata way back the 1950s. He was president and general secretary of the Undivided Bengal Provincial Students` Federation in the 1950s and went on to form the youth movement Paschim Banga Yuva Sangh which transformed into the Bengal unit of the CPI’s youth outfit AIYF later.
His political career took a decisive turn when he was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1985. An activist by nature, Dasgupta soon became the voice of the Left in the Upper House. His party colleagues like former CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy remember his work as Chairman of a sub-committee of Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Labour Ministry on the Conditions of Agricultural Worker.
“They toured across the country and gave useful recommendations. Some of the suggestions like social security for agricultural workers, minimum wages were pioneering,” Reddy told The Indian Express. Dasgupta also had his heart in the right place. Reddy remembers that he was awarded Rs 7.5 lakh by the income tax department after he exposed one “mischief of a big company.”
“He contributed the entire money to the Punjab unit of National Federation of Indian Women to be spent for the children of victims of terrorism of Khalistan,” Reddy remembers. The turning point in his Parliamentary career came in the early 1990s when he raised the Harshad Mehta scandal in Parliament. He exposed several irregularities.
The scandal shook the securities market and the government and the then P V Narasimha Rao government had to setup a joint parliamentary committee to probe the scandal.
He was a member of the JPC on securities scam headed by Congressman Ram Niwas Mirdha. His party colleagues recall his fiery interrogation of bureaucrats in the committee along with late CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee. Unhappy with the final conclusions report of the JPC, Dasgupta even wrote an alternative report naming a couple of individuals which the official report did not mention. His report was later published in the form of a book – Securities Scandal and a Report to the Nation.
Known for his oratory skills, Dasgupta worked as a parliamentarian for 25 years – first as a Rajya Sabha member for three terms in 1985, 1988 and 1994 and again as a Member of Parliament for two terms in 2004 and 2009.
He was in Rajya Sabha till 2000. He got elected to Lok Sabha for the first time in 2004. After his re-election in 2009, he was made the leader of the CPI in Lok Sabha. He was also a member of the joint Parliamentary Committee which probed the 2G spectrum scam.
Along with active politics, he played a key role in shaping the trade union unity as general secretary of the AITUC, the CPI’s trade union arm, as its general secretary since 2001.
“He is the man who brought unity of all trade unions including the BMS and the INTUC during UPA government and organised a nation-wide strike participated by more than 20 crore workers in defence of public sector,” Reddy remembers. During his tenure as general secretary of the AITUC, he built an office for the outfit in Delhi.
“He exposed many misdeeds of the government during his long stint in Parliament. He was a powerful voice of the downtrodden,” Reddy says.
Dasgupta was elected Deputy general secretary of the CPI at its Pondicherry Congress in 2015. He, however, decided to retire from active political life some years later to tend to his ailing wife. He is now the chairman of the CPI programme commission. Dasgupta was offered the General Secretaryship of the CPI more than once, but he declined to take up the responsibility.
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