Kolkata, May 1 (IANS) With West Bengal celebrating May Day with a holiday Tuesday, the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition Left Front tried to use the occasion to consolidate their base among the labour class, which comprises a major vote share in the state.
May Day or International Workers' Day, observed across the globe May 1, has special significance in Bengal as it has a history of a seven-decade-old workers' movement.
"The support of workers has always played and still plays a pivotal role in state politics," said Sabyasachi Basu Rai Chaudhuri, a political scientist.
With winds of change blowing strong in the parliamentary polls of 2009 and assembly elections in 2011, a large section of workers had switched loyalties from the Left Front and voted for the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.
But the Banerjee administration's bid to snatch away the trade union rights of its employees has prompted the Left to go back to a section of workers who had deserted it.
"It is not a question of going back to the workers, we have always been with them. Labour issues are social issues and this government lacks the social outlook to deal with it," explains Ashok Ghosh, state secretary of the United Trade Union Congress (UTUC), a Left aligned labour organisation.
The Left's bid to reach out to the workers received a thrust after showcause notices were served by the new administration to state government employees who had participated in a Feb 28 general strike.
Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) state president Shyamal Chakraborty alleged that the state government was trying to snatch the rights of the workers and said workers, from their experiences, would learn who were their friends and foes.
The Trinamool Congress and the state government on the other hand have pulled up their socks to portray a pro-worker image centering around May Day.
"We have not taken away any rights. We are more concerned about the workers than the Left. More and more workers are joining Trinamool everyday," said Purnendu Bose, state labour minister.
The state government's May Day programme to pay respects to the workers who were killed in Chicago's Haymarket May 1 in 1886 was a platform to advertise various pro-worker initiatives taken by the government.
"We are a pro-worker party. We were directed by our supremo Mamata Banerjee to celebrate May Day in every nook and corner of the state. We believe in the rights of workers, but we don't support militant trade unionism," said Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, trade union leader from the Trinamool Congress.
However, political scientist Basu Roychaudhuri feels that the blame game on the part of the Left and Trinamool's Left posturing will intensify in the coming years as support among the workers is a road to the state's seat of power.
(Pradipta Tapadar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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