Bengal's political forces have no concern for real issues

Written by: Shubham Ghosh

Congress led by Mamata Banerjee, the Left Front guided by Prakash Karat and Biman Bose and of course the Congress, though I don't know who actually plans its progress in the state (even though the formal head is Pradeep Bhattacharya).

Mamata-Biman Bose-Pradeep

No gain for any quarters

The tragedy is that neither of these forces are going anywhere or earning any benefits to the state, apart from just confusing the people for whom they claim to fight. The post-2011 scenario has reflected on this to a great detail and it shows none of the main political parties have the desired authority to give any direction to a state which is lagging hopelessly behind.

Leave aside any idea of cooperation, these parties have engaged themselves in such silly politics marked by vehement antagonism that one feels concerned by the fact that Bengal today is looking to the west for an imminent sunset and the looming darkness.

Governing post-Partition Bengal was not easy

Post-partition Bengal was always a difficult place to rule. The partition and the financial woes that it had brought had thrown an already exploited economy out of gear. Even the times of Bidhan Chandra Roy, the best chief minister Bengal had, were trying with food crisis gripping the state. Socio-economic problems in subsequent years gave rise to serious instability. The late 1960s and 1970s saw a socio-political uprising and the consequent state suppression.

The Bangladesh liberation war of the early 1970s saw the rise of refugee influx problem, which put the state's brittle infrastructure under great stress. And above all these was the ongoing political instability which never allowed the state to get its act right.

On one hand, the Congress saw a steep decline, aided all the more by Indira Gandhi's repressive Emergency at the Centre and Siddhartha Shankar Ray's suppression of the Naxalites at the state and on the other hand, the Communists steadily gained in their strength, which finally saw them bagging power in 1977. A strong organisation, a popular leadership given by Jyoti Basu and the lack of a creditable opposition gave the Leftists an uninterrupted run for three decades! Democracy was clearly eclipsed in the land of the freedom-loving Bengali in an ironic turn of events.

Rise of Mamata

Against this backdrop, Mamata had emerged as a fresh hope for the downtrodden but not the cynical middle class. The latter found a more reliable option in the Jyoti Basu's and the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's and this very division in political perception across the Bengali society had a bad impact on the leaders. The CPI(M), which started off with rural reforms as a party of the masses, soon changed its character into a party of the patrons and the middle-class upstarts. And the vacuum it had created in doing so at the lower rungs was filled up by Mamata for she had a better acceptability among the relatively backward classes.

Mamata's move to distant herself from the collapsing Congress and form a new party, the Trinamool Congress, in 1998 to fight against the Left was an appreciable move but she failed to match the mighty opponent in terms of the organisational machinery. This left her party incapacitated to make up for the divided votes after she left the Congress and for a couple of elections, the Trinamool was drubbed. It was only after the decline of the Left started in the late 2000s when the Trinamool got an opportunity to turn the tables, just as the Left had done vis-a-vis the Congress in the 1960s and 1970s.

The 34-year-rule had left the Left with little credibility in terms of popular root and it had also lost a couple of leaders, both popular and organisational, making it too weak to challenge the heights that Mamata had acquired by then. The third force, the Congress, clearly a fragmented and marginalised force by now, joined Mamata's crusade against the Left to exhibit that it was also propelled by a 'will to topple the Left', something which it could never do after 1977.

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