Gurudas Dasgupta, CPI Leader and Trade Unionist, Passes Away at 82

A fiery trade unionist, he is credited with catalysing the AITUC's growth.

New Delhi: Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta passed away at 6 am on Thursday in Kolkata. He was a three-term Rajya Sabha MP from West Bengal and was also elected to the Lok Sabha from Panskura in 2004 and Ghatal in 2009. In 2001, he was elected as the general secretary of India’s oldest trade union, the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), which is also celebrating its centenary day on Thursday.

Dasgupta was battling lung cancer for a prolonged period and had relinquished party posts due to poor health, West Bengal CPI secretary Swapan Banerjee told News18. He is survived by his wife and daughter. He was 82.

A fiery trade unionist, he is credited with catalysing the AITUC’s growth. “As the general secretary of All India Trade Union Council (AITUC), Dasgupta, almost single-handedly, transformed the lesser-known trade union into a major force, even surpassing CPIM’s Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) in membership—a feat to boost CPI’s ego as CPIM has been always been a much bigger party,” Saubhadra Chatterji writes in Hindustan Times.

He was also part of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the 2G spectrum and had criticised former PM Manmohan Singh, calling the JPC report which gave a clean chit to Singh a “fraud”. “The report is a fraud as it does not take into account the role of the finance minister and others. It has found only one villain, that is Raja. The prime minister knew what is happening despite that the JPC did not take it into account,” he had said.

Dasgupta was detained under Defence of India Rules in 1965 and went underground on a number of occasions during the Congress’s rule in West Bengal.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal called his passing away “a big loss for the nation”.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also condoled the death of the veteran leader. “Saddened at the passing away of CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta ji. He will be remembered for his contribution to the nation as a Parliamentarian and trade union leader. Condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” she said.

The CPI(M) also expressed “deep condolences” in a tweet. “The Left movement in the country and the working class has lost a strong voice,” the tweet said.

The AITUC has released a statement recounting his political journey, his concern for the working class and his defence of the public sector. “He led his unions from the front, the Maruti Workers Struggle in [the] mid-1990s, the incident of Honda Scooters & Motorcycles struggle in 2005 being particularly bloody, when he waved the blood-soaked clothes of workers in the Parliament, who were brutally lathicharged while demanding that their union be registered. He led unions of Air India, Air Alliance, NMDC, NBCC, Port & Dock, Tea Garden, Financial Sector Employees and so on,” it said.

The statement also says that Dasgupta played a crucial role in uniting all the central trade unions during the UPA 2 government to organise the first all-India strike in 2009.

The CPI leader also authored two books exploring the links between corporates and the political class called The Securities Scandal: A Report to the Nation and Reliance Gas Scandal: Biggest Scandal.