Today, as the All India Trade Union Congress inaugurates its centenary on 31 October, Comrade Gurudas Dasgupta has passed away.
Comrade Dasgupta began as a student activist and proved himself as a vibrant and versatile student leader. He was with the Students Federation and was its president and national secretary from 1958 to 1960. He was with the All India Youth Federation in West Bengal for a decade from 1966 to 1977.
He was not only a West Bengal leader but a national leader when he became active in the party at the trade union level. In 2001, he became the general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, the oldest and premium trade union in the country.
He was a leader both of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and he was always very articulate. Since 1985 he was in the Rajya Sabha, and in 2004 he was elected to the Lok Sabha, where his performance was excellent.
If not for Comrade Dasgupta the details of the 2G spectrum scandal would never have come to light. It is his role in the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on 2G spectrum allocation that brought forth the government’s efforts to slow down the probe into the misallocation of airwaves. It is he who pushed the government to table the report on this scandal. He was also a strong critic of the report, published by the government in 2013, on this scandal.
During the discussions of the government on the Indo-US nuclear deal as well, Comrade Dasgupta who stridently put up an opposition to the government’s plans. He was a defender of the public sector in a big way.
Similarly, when the Harshad Mehta scandal, which came to be known as the Hawala case, came to light, comrade Dasgupta was one of the most vocal on that issues. He was part of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) that was set up to examine that securities scam, and for his work he was appreciated by many.
He later emerged as the deputy general secretary of the party, a post which he held until the last party Congress a year ago.
Comrade was a leader of the working classes and even more so of agricultural workers as well. In Parliament he made a number of vocal interventions and participated in a large number of deliberations of parliamentary committees. He was a great parliamentarian. Then he was on the committees of parliament dealing with finances, and on consultative committees as well.
One of the issues which he took a strong position on was labour welfare. He chaired the parliamentary committee on labour issues as well.
Comrade Dasgupta was my senior in the party. I came to the all-India level earlier than him, and so we were in Members of Parliament at the same time. He was always very forthright and articulate in his views. Not just that, he was very simple. His style of living remained very simple throughout his life. Of course, as a communist, one is always surrounded by books, reading materials, files and documents. That is how comrade Dasgupta was too: always engaged with reading and writing and learning.
But he was first and foremost a great fighter. His primary legacy and contribution were that he injected a sense of vibrancy into the trade union movement. He believed in the power of protests, agitations, strikes, and he planned and led many actions across the country. He brought a fighting spirit into the trade union movement. He would stick to this way of doing things, for he believed that mass agitations and mobilisation were the way to secure the rights of the poor, the workers and farmers.
He would always be remembered for his contribution.
D Raja is general secretary, Communist Party of India and has been Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament twice.