West Bengal Assembly Elections: What the people and their “leaders” are missing out
by Saradindu Mukherji on 12 May 2011 6 Comments

With five phases of voting just over, and with an average voting percentage exceeding 80%, it is time to take stock of the just-concluded electoral battle and the message emanating from it. Were all that matters for West Bengal given their due by politicians in the fray or simply left out?


It has been said that voting behaviour this time has been extremely polarized, and people on the whole are eagerly awaiting a change of political masters. It is likely that Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress might emerge as the undisputed winner, and the Left Front finally thrown out of power after 35 long years. It is, however, also being said that it might be a very close contest!


While the Congress would manage a few seats, it is quite likely that Pranab Mukherji’s son, if he wins from Nalhati, might become a Minister in the new dispensation led by Ms. Banerjee. Even Trinamool, purportedly claiming to be all about grass-roots, have to keep the correct line of communication with the unified High Command in Lutyens’ Delhi. And that tells a tale! Whatever Mamata Banerjee’s reputation for financial integrity and simplicity of dress, including the make of the chappal she wears, the fact remains that her TMC had been an unwavering ally for the most corrupt government since independence at the Centre, as run by Sonia-Manmohan, which incidentally is also the most anti-Hindu government to rule India (leaving aside the unique case of Jammu & Kashmir) since Aurangzeb’s time. Let there be not a shred of doubt on this dimension of the TMC connection.


Mamata Banerjee is no Rani Rasmani (the legendary aristocrat-philanthropist) or Matangini Hazra (heroine of 1942 Quit India in Midnapur). She is neither in the mould of Sister Nivedita nor Preetilata Waddedar (revolutionary). In the ouster of Taslima Nasreen from Bengal, Mamata had a role. The Imam of the Tipu Sultan mosque, Kolkata, known to be close to the TMC, has just led the faithful in praying for Bin Laden. Ms. Banerjee remains a typical practitioner of realpolitik not withstanding the fact that her opponents suffer from total political and intellectual bankruptcy. Bengal, unfortunately, today has no viable choice.


Yet, there is a nagging fear that a Mamata Banerjee-led government in control of the old red building, the Writers’ Building, might end up by giving Bengal an unsatisfactory governance, much like the infamous and inefficient administration associated with the Dual system as during  1765-67. It would be a tragedy of unprecedented dimensions if the government of the day has the power without any responsibility. This does not suggest that the Left Front government was very productive and efficient; but we come to their legacy later.


The new Chief Minster might follow in the footsteps of Narendra Modi, Raman Singh and Nitish Kumar, and steer Bengal in a radically new and constructive direction. And that’s the only option they have. Mere rhetoric, street-fights and bandhs would not do anymore. The people in Bengal want substantial paribartan (change), not empty slogans and meaningless politics, devoid of any positive agenda.


The running theme on both sides of the political divide was primarily about casting the vote for one, or alternately voting against the other, without much elaboration of what they would offer, and Mamata among other things, kept on urging the people not to vote for the BJP, and accused the Left front of helping the former. Yet many have not forgotten that she was a participant in the BJP-led government at the Centre. She had reportedly said following Advani’s visit to Bengal that she respects his age but not his politics. Logically, she was wrong and factually absurd. But then there are so many things we don’t expect to hear from our politicians.


Obviously, she, or her adversaries, many of them refugees from the neighbouring Muslim country, have no understanding of the civilisational issues involved in the Ayodhya movement for the restoration of the ancient Ram temple or the history of Islamic terror/ aggression in Gujarat, Bengal - east or west, or, for that matter anywhere in the world. Mamata, it is obvious, wants to be seen all the time on the side of the Islamic ummah. After all, who has not noted the political mileage she acquired after every photo opportunity with the Muslim League Minister in the Union government who happened to be her Deputy in the Railway Ministry until a few months back?


After all, the BJP has been running some of the most efficient, productive and corruption-free governments in some of the major states of India, and many of them are getting re-elected with higher numbers. It is this infirmity of many of the politicians in Bengal, and elsewhere too, that are causes of serious concern.


As for the BJP, it was noted that they had refrained from criticizing this jaundiced view of Mamata about their “untouchable” status. The BJP, as the political legatee of the last of our Mohicans - Syama Prasad Mookerji, refrained from mentioning the demographic imbalance caused by the officially sponsored migration of Bangladeshi Muslims, and the harassment caused to Hindus in various areas of West Bengal, as in Deganga a few months back, where a Muslim Trinamool MP had been a major mischief-maker, including many areas of Kolkata city proper. As long as this remains the typical “secularism” of Mamata, one can’t expect any security or stability from her government. Much like the brutal murder of the dynamic IPS officer Vinod Mehta by people of a particular community close to the Left Front in the Garden Reach area, which symbolized a high-point in the relationship between Muslim underworld and a section of the “progressive” Left, the Deganga mayhem of Hindus similarly indicated another milestone - the perfect entente between the TMC and the Pan Islamic expansionists.


Though many of these politicians might talk of development, social justice and other numbo-jumbo, they actually have no clue about the things which always matter. Whether the new Finance Minister would be able to restore the industrial health of West Bengal, can secure more FDI and improve the navigability of the ports of Calcutta and Haldia substantially, would be keenly watched.


It may be recalled that by orchestrating the ouster of Nano from Bengal, Ms. Banerjee already has earned a dubious reputation on this score, which might only be salvaged by massive re-industrialisation and more employment opportunities. The new government in Bengal has to ensure that its fabled greenery is not depleted by the notorious builders - also called promoters. A few hundred jobs in the railways, and promotion of some artists/cultural icons, some fake and some genuine, may not be able to erase her overall impression in the public mind as an agitator par excellence who lacks in vision and constructive skill which Bengal sorely needs after the long misrule by the Left, and earlier by the likes of Congressman like Siddhartha Shankar Roy, hero of the fake Emergency, and erstwhile lawyer of the Babri Masjid Action Committee.


While Roy is associated with the settlement of thousands of Bihari Muslims from erstwhile East Pakistan / Bangladesh, and total silence on the sufferings of the remainder of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians in Bangladesh, the Left would be remembered for the most extensive deindustrialization since the days of the English East Company, destruction of Bengal’s famous educational centres and academic culture, flooding West Bengal with Bangladeshi Muslims, gift of Farakka water to Bangladesh (at the behest of that spurious doctrine-wallah Gujral), turning it into a safe haven for Islamic terrorists, and many more !


While economy is an obvious priority in contemporary West Bengal, politicians and media persons have been consistently pushing under the carpet another critical issue - the viability of the borders of West Bengal and its survival as a secure state. Since Bengal was partitioned in 1947 and its eastern part became East Pakistan because of its Muslim majority, one need not feel shy talking about religious demography and its inherent dangers. As for the growing communalisation of Bengal politics, i.e, its rapid Islamisation - the fact is that out of 294 Assembly constituencies - 70 are Muslim-majority; in 45 Muslim voters are decisive. And that explains that the Left Front has put up 56 Muslim candidates while TMC has put up 42 Muslim candidates out of its 227 candidates. The Congress has put up twenty.


Hence it would be suicidal for Bengal politicians to implement the absurd ideas of Sachar, Mishra et al. Muslims in Bengal have ruled for 500 years and are total masters of eastern Bengal, and also happen to be politically dominant in the administration of West Bengal.  The Bengal media and sarkari “intelligentsia” is on the side of the Islamic Bloc, and remains apathetic, if not hostile, to Hindus generally. There is a real fear that at this rate, West Bengal might be swallowed up by neighbouring Bangladesh, notwithstanding the joint celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Gurudev by New Delhi and Dhaka or the import of Padma hilsa fish from across the borders. There is a genuine apprehension that it might turn into another Kashmir!


As for day-to-day governance in Calcutta, it can be safely said it’s much better than in the national capital. Despite narrow roads with ancient trams still running on some stretches, the traffic police is doing an excellent job. The minor crossings are manned even on Sundays, which one just can’t imagine in Delhi. The pre-paid taxi booths in both Howrah and Sealdah work most efficiently, something which visitors to railway stations miss out greatly in Delhi. One can always hail a taxi at any point which we can’t do in Delhi. Kolkata’s main thoroughfares still do not permit a free run to rickshaws, which authorities in Delhi do with gay abandon. The kind of violent behaviour one finds in Delhi, the road-rage etc, and especially relating to women, are still not so common in Kolkata. And for the common man, prices are within reach. But this has nothing to do with any political ideology - these are taken for granted in a particular socio-cultural ambience.


Let’s hope that whoever comes to power may rise above petty politics and try to make Bengal a trendsetter for the rest of the country, as the venerable Raja Rammohan Roy did two hundred years back. And why not? After all, in a lighter vein, the Raja was also a Banerjee and so were the Tagores of Jorasanko.


The writer teaches History at the University of Delhi, Delhi  

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