Yes, it’s 20 years since Rajiv Gandhi’s death. And all my readers are very well aware that if there was one prime minister in my adult lifetime who ever made me feel proud as an Indian, it was him. I wish I could write this edit only on him, but I think many brilliant people, in Rajiv’s memory, have written on him in this issue; so my writing on him is of lesser importance – especially given the fact that by the time this magazine reaches your hands, a huge and significant chapter in Indian politics would have come to an end. Yes, I am talking about the rule of CPM in Bengal. As far as the historic verdict delivered by the voters in these elections are concerned – it’s Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool party which has decisively swept the polls in Bengal. In fact, if the leading channel is to be believed, then the current chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is trailing badly even as I write this! So I think I can safely say it’s the end of CPM in Bengal. Or should I say the end of Stalinism in Bengal?
Well, the truth is that it is with a feeling of great betrayal that I write this edit. All Bengalis have a communist instinct hidden somewhere inside. It’s in our culture. The more you read Bengali literature, the more you feel for those marginalised in the society; the more you feel for them, the more communism appeals to you. And Bengal’s greatest pride, Rabindranath Tagore’s thoughts on village employment, self reliance and actual work at Shanti Niketan, all have a huge similarity with the Marxist thought process, apart from Tagore’s poems and writings oozing with feelings for the downtrodden. So if you are a Bengali, Marxist thoughts have a natural appeal. It’s thanks to this appeal that CPM came to power more than three decades back. That was historic in many ways. It was virtually the first time a communist party came to power through a democratic process in such a big manner. In a lot of ways, the people of Bengal had come out and voted for paribartan with a lot of hope and faith. And the truth is that they delivered and worked with a lot of sincerity in the first ten years of their now infamous rule. It is after the first decade that the great betrayal of Bengal started. The last 24 years undid everything. Rigging, killing, muscle power, police manipulation, dictatorship at the grassroots level, name a shame that dictatorships all over the world have done and CPM did that and worse to stay in power. In the name of Marxism, everything that was non-Marxist was done; and the poor who are at the centre of Marxist thinking were the people being terrorized and exploited the most.
It is that precise reason why despite my and our magazines’ very open leanings towards socialistic thoughts, as a magazine we were the first and perhaps the only one to take an aggressive and bold stance against the CPM rule in Bengal. We called the rule Stalinist – at the cost of going through endless trouble, especially when the UPA government was dependent on CPM, and CPM could pull strings in all of central government’s harassment departments – and we put Bengal and its fascist face on our magazine’s cover time and time again over the last four and a half years. We did this because we genuinely believed that while Lalu Prasad Yadav and the likes were being branded as hooligans of Indian politics, the reality was that the so-called Bhadraloks of Bengal politics were the real inhuman rodents who were ruling Bengal for over two decades by muscle power and rigging alone.
Village after village, families were being broken down due to party politics, and rigging was being arranged scientifically; the local police was being used to spread fear and informal torture houses were set up in the close vicinity to police stations to keep a tight leash on those who dared to speak out against the ruling mafia. The rule of muscle was systematised like no other state of India had ever seen, since CPM is a cadre based party. Democracy and all its virtues were issues that the leaders didn’t give two hoots about while they wore white dhotis, read literature, appreciated plays and promoted art and culture. It’s only perhaps fittingly ironic that it’s the literary brigade that formed a group, put up hoardings all around Calcutta and Bengal asking for paribartan – change – and came out openly in support of the fearlessly committed lady who is creating history – Mamata Banerjee! With her total commitment to freeing Bengal of the Stalinist rule, she went from village to village of Bengal tirelessly to make the change possible and create this historical moment in Indian politics. After crusading for this moment, we sure are celebrating. Yet, I am very sure it’s not the end of the road for CPM in Bengal. This is the beginning of their training period in the art of appreciating the process of democracy and learning to abide by laws and respecting the people in a democracy. Five to ten years in the opposition is the least punishment they deserve and a must. However, the need for them to provide a strong opposition party is a must, since there are widespread fears that the Trinamool Congress – which out of lack of any choice, had to take the support of muscle power to come to power – might just end up continuing the same. And even if it does not, it’s important in a democracy that there is a strong opposition party which doesn’t let the ruling party become complacent.
More importantly, once the CPM in Bengal learns to become democratic like CPM in Kerala and Tripura, they might again remember the act of doing good for the poorest of poor, something that never fails to keep a party in power in an impoverished nation like India. But till they get their lessons over the next five to ten years in the opposition, here is wishing a great future to Mamata Banerjee, arguably the most fearless, honest and committed leader in India today! Hope she never forgets the poor, doesn’t let her party leaders become dishonest and corrupt, and above all never allows them to bring back another reign of terror in Bengal. People of Bengal deserve peace now after two decades of a virtually non-reported (in national media) reign of terror. And before I end, I must say hats-off to Dr S. Y. Quraishi, our current chief election commissioner. He is not too loud, but what a man he is to have made a real rigging free election possible in Bengal. This was the support that people of Bengal and Mamata needed so that those huge numbers could come out freely to vote for paribartan! It’s the end of the rape of Marxism in Bengal! Long live paribartan!
- 13 May 2011 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics