Crusader to the core

43Bardhan 1924 – 2016

A.B. Bardhan was a champion of the working class and a defender of secularism through and through

Comrade Ardhendu Bhushan Bardhan lived a full active life of 91 years, but he left us at a time when his counsel is most needed. He remained a committed communist all his life. He was an internationalist, who championed the national liberation movements in the world, and a steadfast anti-imperialist crusader. He remained a fighter all his life. Having suffered a fatal stroke in December, his body continued to fight till he finally succumbed on January 2.

The last time I met him was on November 28, 2015 at the international conference to mark the CPI's 90th anniversary. He chaired the inaugural session where I spoke. During the break, we discussed many issues, including the current struggles against the BJP government, which is mounting a double whammy attack on the people by pursuing the pro-imperialist neoliberal economic policy and patronising the communal forces with their hindutva agenda.

Bardhan joined the Communist Party in 1940, and went on to champion the cause of the working class and emerged as a foremost trade union leader. In 1957, he was elected to the Maharashtra assembly, where he was a contemporary of Pratibha Patil. He supported her candidature for president of India because of this association.

My association with him goes back to the 1980s, which saw the rise of the hindutva agenda. During the course of L.K. Advani’s 'rath yatra' that left behind a trail of communal conflict, death and mayhem culminating in the destruction of the Babri Masjid, we shared many platforms in opposition to this. Bardhan was a passionate fighter, championing the cause of secularism as being indispensable to advance struggles for social transformation in our country. He travelled all across the country organising these protests that contributed to the formation of the United Front government in 1996. I remember the days of the 13-day Vajpayee government. Bardhan worked to ensure that all efforts by the BJP to muster a majority in Parliament were foiled. And, that is what happened. When the CPI decided to join the UF government, CPI general secretary Indrajit Gupta became home minister. Bardhan then took charge as general secretary till he demitted office in 2012.

I had the opportunity to work closely with Bardhan, often gaining from his experience. I recollect the intense discussions we used to have in the period leading to and after the collapse of the USSR, particularly the discussion over the resolution on ideological issues discussing this collapse that the CPI(M) had adopted at our congress in January 1992. When the CPI(M) moved to our new headquarters at AKG Bhawan, New Delhi, he was keen to see the whole of the new building. After seeing it, he said that the CPI(M) had a lot of extra space. I jocularly replied that we were waiting for him and his party to occupy these vacant spaces!

Bardhan was a champion of uniting the two communist parties. This, however, cannot happen with a handshake between the leaders. He agreed that we need to work together with the mass organisations of both the parties. This is a process that is on. The merger is not on the agenda now. What is on the agenda is strengthening the commonality of positions on crucial issues confronting the country. This is the best way to pay him homage.

In a lighter vein, I would often tell him that while his generation split the party, my generation would seek to unify—a task that remains to be done, however long the process may take.

Yechury is general secretary, CPI(M).

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