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Akali hero, Surjeet zero - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
12 February 1997

Title : Akali hero, Surjeet zero
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : February 12, 1997

The most charitable explanation for the pitiful performance of the
two Communist parties in the Punjab Assembly elections is that the
electorate was able to successfully distinguish between true Akalis
and counterfeit ones. This belated recognition will, of course, not
make the slightest impression on CPI(M) general secretary,
Harkishen Singh Surjeet, whose party will not be represented on the
Opposition benches. A past master of obfuscation, Surjeet has
attributed the disappearance of "secular forces" on the perfidy of
the CPI. The implication is that if the Punjab unit of the CPI had
not struck a last-minute deal with the Congress (apparently in
defiance of the central leadership), the "communal forces" would
not have prevailed. Surjeet's logic, needless to add, is
bewildering. He somehow assumes that the revolutionary masses in
Punjab were ready and prepared to embrace the red flag, had it not
been for CPI's deceitful conduct which "divide(d) the Left and
help(ed) the communal forces". The CPI(M) leader's rhetoric is
reminiscent of the late-Seventies when he sought to harness the
revolutionary potential of the comrades in the Akali Dal to fight
the Congress. It is a different matter that the fiery slogans of
the Left were conveniently appropriated by sections of the Sikh
terrorists to spread revolution Maachis-style.

Not that the decimation of the Left should automatically invite
mockery. After a chequered history of being on the wrong side of
nationalism throughout the freedom struggle, the Left did play a
significant role in building popular resistance to the secessionist
forces in Punjab. For, their dogged and uncompromising opposition
to Khalistan, hundreds of Communists fell victim to, terrorist
bullets. The question, therefore, arises: why did the Communists
fail to benefit from the growing revulsion against terrorism? The
answer, ironically, may have something to do with a man called
Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

It is neither unfair nor inaccurate to blame the disrepute of the
Left on Comrade Surjeet. The CPI(M) general secretary may see
himself as a master player on the Delhi stage, the man who makes
and unmakes governments and the leader whose counsel has been
sought by all Prime Ministers, from Indira Gandhi to Deve Gowda.
Atal Behari Vajpayee never held office long enough to appreciate
that Surjeet is a man for all seasons. To the electorate of
Punjab, however, Surjeet is seen as the wily puppeteer whose
machinations helped prolong the agony of Punjab. The assessment may
be unfair, but it is real. Should the CPI(M) be concerned?
Hardly. Indian Communism has had a healthy record of elevating
those who are looked upon with disfavour by their own states. At
one time, the Communists were a factor in Maharashtra. Then came B.
T. Ranadive and India's most industrialised state became a red-free
zone; now Surjeet has done likewise in the granary of India - the
State whose "green" revolution was expected to turn red, with a
little bit of help from "progressive" Akalis.

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