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Mamata’s bengal

MAMATA’S BENGAL By Prem Chandran Commentators, generally, are self-styled intellectuals sitting in glass houses in major cities – mostly in .....




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MAMATA’S BENGAL

By Prem Chandran

Commentators, generally, are self-styled intellectuals sitting in glass houses in major cities – mostly in Delhi these days -- and they pass judgment on all issues under the Sun. Much like our new-age Netas led by Sonia Gandhi, who have no ear to the ground other than what they get to hear from a handful of men and women who surround them or from the media. And, so were the comments on the political scene in West Bengal.

With a Saradha scam erupting, or with a few other controversies presumably sullying the image of the Trinamul Congress in recent months, commentators have begun predicting that Mamata Banerjee would soon be on oxygen as the “disenchantment" against her governance was growing. The fact, however, is something else, as is proven beyond doubt by the panchayat elections that showed how the people of West Bengal conceive of their present leadership. In a stunning electoral performance, ruling TMC has carried with it 13 of the 17 districts, leaving one district to the Congress and another to the Marxists. Clearly, for the state and for the TMC, there is life beyond Kolkata and beyond the intellectuals’ nit-picking.

This serves the Marxists’ egos right. They have been living in a world of make-believe for long, acting big at the national level even when they have little of goodwill, leave alone following, across the nation. It is not just that the Communists who lead the two pro-democracy parties in India, the CPI and the CPM, speak no language other than Queen’s English. For them, intellectualism comes first, and people’s causes occasionally for a change – by way of rubbing the surface, like when they call a national bandh against, say, price rise. It shows how ideologically bankrupt are these men who don the leadership coat, cut off as they are from the world outside AKG Bhavan in Delhi or elsewhere. Was it any surprise that these were the leaders who were the first to resist the move to make political parties’ accounts open to public scrutiny? Even the Congress, the most corrupt political establishment, waited for a while before giving a reaction; but Communists were in the forefront protesting the move.

Now, the Marxists are not only licking their wounds, but are also left voiceless. What could they say of this humiliation in West Bengal, even granted that they are left with some sense of shame? In a theoretical sense, it could well be the beginning of the end for the Communists in this country, one of the last outposts of Reds worldwide, even as 60 years of parliamentary democracy in this country has seen them only in the fringes, at best carrying with them three small states, resolutely so for a period. No doubt, political scenarios could change any time, yet strong chances are that Mamata Banerjee will carry on flying her flag high in the state for a considerably long time to come, if only for the reason that she speaks the people’s language and moves with the people – and not with the intellectuals and the English media ‘friends' with whom the Marxist leaders are comfortable with. People see her as one among their own kith and kin – cutting across sectarian divides.

True, Communist leaders have a class and elan about way they conduct themselves as they are generally products of campus communism, be they the Karats or the Yechuris, though another of the fashionable woman politburo member cannot be bracketed with them. They, or the Bhadralok CPM leaders in Bengal, appeal to the urban middle class; this too, however, not to a point the same people go as much as backing the party. But, how would the rest of the society, which makes and unmakes governments, find comfort in them? This is where Mamata Banerjee came as a welcome relief to the ordinary masses.

While Mamata is by birth a part and parcel of the Bhadralok stock, it was not in her to sit in a glass house and demand respect: she walked down the aisle, sat with the masses and listened to the people’s problems. She behaved as if she was one among them; unlike the clowns who dictated terms till a while ago. Even as chief minister, she continues to live in her modest home, and has not opted for pomp – pomp, which prompted Jyoti Basu to share a part of the Raj Bhavan as his residence during his long innings as chief minister. Nothing less, he might have thought, could match his stature in West Bengal. Now, the Bhadralok Marxists who hoodwinked the masses for decades under the charismatic leadership of Jyoti Basu are finding that the sand on which they stood is eroding from below their feet. Neither can they demand respect anymore; nor could they ever command respect. Looks like, Mamata is here to stay – she having also decimated the other opposition, the Congress, from its bases in North Bengal, just as she swept the Marxists under the carpet in South Bengal. What both parties could hope for in future might be a few seats in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, or at best its rule.

West Bengal is symbolic of both the crises plaguing the Indian political leadership and of the way out of the present hard times when ‘propped up’ leaderships are ruling the roost – from Sonia Gandhi, the Nehru dynasty, to the leaderships down at the state levels, where dynasties are strengthening their grip over politics by way of dirty political tricks – be they the distribution of sarees by the Shiv Sainiks to slum women in Mumbai suburbs, or of television sets purchased by loot of the exchequer by the DMK or AIADMK in Tamil Nadu for distribution to all and sundry in Tamil Nadu, or the food security bill being brought up by the Congress party, or the bank reimbursement scheme under which money for developmental purposes are diverted back to the people themselves by way of dolls. Having seen this and much more, we need reassurance that those at the helm of this nation’s leadership would be seriously concerned about the future of this nation over and above their selfish scheming for personal benefits.

It is a debatable point as to what have the Communists, who swear by the breath of the disadvantaged sections of the population, done in their 34 years of uninterrupted rule in West Bengal, other than a land reform exercise which made a positive impact on a mass scale. Industry after industry left Calcutta unable to bear with the ‘dadagiri’ of the Marxist local chieftains, who at the drop of a hat, raised the red flag and got industries to down their shutters, unit after unit. Would it simply suffice that the Communists are less corrupt among the political lot in this country, which they mostly are, if by their actions they undercut progress to a level wherein a high-profile state like West Bengal was brought down to the level of one of the poorest states? Fortunately for Kerala, another communist bastion, the state withstood the red onslaught by virtue of the strength of its education sector, the money coming out of its cash crops and spices, and the inflow of remittances from the Gulf and to an extent the US -- thanks also to the enterprising nature of the people who were ably supported by the Christian as also Islamic influences in many ways. The state progressed socially and economically in spite of its politics and politicians.

Mamata’s style of politics has much to be wary about. She is unlikely to be the ultimate answer to West Bengal either. Yet, she embodies the true spirit of democracy in as much that she stands with the people, her intentions transparent, in an age when bandits and bandicoots rule the roost in Indian politics, a scenario brought to this pass by the disintegration of the Congress party as a national political movement and its conversion into a family enterprise -- a virtually rudderless entity plagued by sycophants and self-seekers. --premcee@gmail.com

Last edited by Premchandran; 08-05-2013 at 10:30 PM
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