The Indian Express | Kolkata | January 10,
KOLKATA, JANUARY 9: Workers at the
Uttarpara factory of Hindustan Motors Ltd, one of the oldest
manufacturing facilities in West Bengal, have voted convincingly
for Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s agenda of keeping
the trade union movement free from militancy.
In the elections on Wednesday, to pick a union that will
negotiate with the CK Birla management on behalf of the workers
for the next two years, 49 per cent of the votes cast went to
the CITU, the CPI(M) labour wing that had opposed a 61-day
strike at the plant last year. From March 13 to May 11, the
factory had been crippled by the Sangrami Shramik Karmachari
Union, the union then in power, which was backed by Naxalite
Political circles saw the support for CITU as a referendum for
the CM’s industry-friendly approach. The CITU had been a
virulent opponent of Bhattacharjee in his first term as CM, but
has mellowed considerably.
Kali Ghosh, CITU’s state secretary, admitted that the voting
pattern was a referendum. “Workers are accepting CITU’s new role
of striving for peaceful industrial relations,” Ghosh said. “We
had been able to explain our agenda to the workers.”
In the 2005 elections, the SSKU had secured 62 per cent of the
votes. At that time, the SSKU was the joint platform of a
Naxalite group and the AITUC, CPI’s labour arm. But the SSKU
split, leading to the formation of the CPI-led Sangrami Shramik
Union (SSU) while the Naxals remained in control at the SSKU.
AITUC state secretary, Ranjit Guha, however, claimed the results
were not an endorsement of the CM’s approach. “This happened
because of the split in our union,” Guha said.
Ghosh dismissed this, pointing out that the two together had not
managed to get the 62 per cent vote share of 2005. “Our votes
have gone up because workers feel industrialisation is
essential, in the backdrop of Singur,” said Ghosh.
The results seemed to have surprised the SSKU, whose leader,
Amitabha Bhattacharya, had combined forces with Trinamool leader
Mamata Banerjee when she was protesting farmland acquisition in
Singur. While voting was on, the SSKU leader had stressed that
it would be a referendum on whether the workers want strikes or