The common rule of the game is you lose an election and lie low for at least a year. But not for the Left in Bengal, whose relevance in the state has become questionable after the recent polls. They are back, though not as political workers. After a humiliating defeat of the Left (not only the Left did not win any seat, they came second in just two seats out of 177 they contested) and its allies, the volunteers of the red brigade are now working throughout the state as corona warriors.
These volunteers are now busy supplying oxygen cylinders, medicines and food to the people affected with covid-19. They have developed a website (www.redvolunteerswb.com) that provides district-wise names along with phone numbers of the volunteers to be contacted for oxygen, hospital beds, medicine, and food. And many leftists have joined them to let the people know about their efforts through facebook and whatsapp.
Rana Nath is an auto-rickshaw driver. But he has come up to help many. He is seen at times carrying oxygen to someone, or taking a patient to hospital sporting a PPE suit. Last Sunday, he took out his auto rickshaw after midnight to carry an old man residing at the third floor of an apartment to the hospital.
He and a couple of other volunteers carried the man to ground floor holding him in their hands. His story was flashed in a renowned vernacular paper, but he is not flattered by it. He still continues to do what he was doing.
The leftists claim 80 thousand such volunteers have registered their names with them. The brigade mostly consist of youngsters belonging to student or youth wing of the CPI(M). Many of the defeated young candidates of the party like Dipsita Dhar, a joint secretary of SFI at national level, are now working as volunteers. The network is spread across almost every bloc of the state.
Alok Chatterjee, a retired professor, says the red volunteers have brought back the memories of his teens when political workers helped the people during the time of calamities. “Though time has changed and politics has become means of money making, these boys and girls are setting an altogether different example,” says Chatterjee.
But everyone is not happy, particularly some in the ruling party. They feel this is an effort to stay relevant. The question is why the workers of those who came first and second in the polls are not risking their lives like these boys and girls. No doubt, the Red Volunteers have still a long, long way to go before they can re-establish them politically. But their selfless work can be beginning of a new era.