A few days ago, I had gone to Yaswantpur railway station in Bangalore to see off my relatives who had come from Kolkata. As we were waiting for the train to Howrah, we heard a noise. Turning our heads, we saw two men engaging each other in an ugly political dispute. While one asked: "What's your didi is doing for Bengal?", the other one replied: "She is better than you people who have destroyed the state for the last 34 years." The tu-tu-main-main went on and on till a third party intervened and calmed them down. Though the mood was far from happy and the two adversaries kept on grumbling.
Bengali society is polarised on party lines
It was quite stunning that these two Bengalis were fighting a never-ending battle far away from the epicentre and creating a scene in front of outsiders. But this is the grim reality of today. The Bengali society, which calls itself to be above caste or religious differences, is no less polarised and the disctinction is more on the line of party politics. There is no doubt that two Bengalis with opposing political orientations will fight it out even they are left in the moon. This polarisation is no less harmful than a Hindu-Muslim or Brahmin-Dalit division.
But why does the Bengali society endorses this never-ending cycle of blame game and violence? The ugly spat even transcended the state borders on Tuesday and reached the national capital where Mamata Banerjee and some of her Cabinet colleagues were heckled by the CPI(M)'s student outfit and the consequences were seen in Bengal where the Trinamool Congress unleashed a reign of terror against the Left supporters.
Left had started the politics of retaliation
There can be no doubt that the politics of retaliation was inaugurated by the Left in the state. No matter how much the Left leadership tries to mend the ways today, it can not really undo its cultural past and it was proved again in Delhi on Tuesday. And as a veteran political observer had rightly told this writer once: "It is very difficult to recast the Leftist mould and give birth to a fresh generation with different thinking." The continuity from the past is too precious for the Leftists to survive. A change of character would put an and to the Leftist tag.
The Left Front, as an opposition, had promoted a politics of destruction in the sixties for its own benefit. The tradition did not change even when it had come to power in the late 1970s and the militant opposition was coupled with a social engineering which promoted the prominence of the mediocrity. First as the Opposition and then as the rulers, the Left Front had ensured that West Bengal imbibed only one political culture and it spoke of militancy, party loyalty and stagnation. The legacy was so strong that the last Left ruler himself had perished when he tried to set things around.
Left can never turn right
The beleaguered Left, after being thrown to the Opposition after a long time, said the time had come to rectify their ways but history doesn't back them with enough evidence about the Left turning right. And it was seen again in New Delhi on Tuesday when the young leftists proudly exhibited what they have learnt from their mentors. The consequence will be disastrous for a political camp which is already in a shambles.
Even non-Left forces in Bengal today think on Leftist lines
But what is even more worrying for the people of Bengal is that the long shadow of the Left brand of politics has engulfed the alternative political force as well. This is how the social engineering of the Left political strategists have paralysed the state for times to come.
The 34-year-rule has eclipsed democracy and denied emergence of an alternative political style in the state and what we call an alternative to the Left is essentially a replacement of the Left in the state and it continues to practise the same-old culture. The irony is that whoever calls himself anti-Left in Bengal today, has his political thought process deeply shaped and influenced by the Left. Mamata Banerjee is no exception and there is hardly any parivartan.
Bengal politics has been reduced to physical violence today
The political attacks and counter-attacks in Bengal today are aimed at physically decimating the opposition. There is no constructive agenda like economic development for any party as a means to outdo the opposition. This has not only led to an overall stagnation but also a situation where people are clueless tin finding a way out of the cesspool.
An economic survival is absolute necessity for the state today to break the cycle
The failure to identify a new direction and chalk out a new route to progress towards that direction has seen Bengal getting trapped in a vicious cycle. If there is no development, the Trinamool says because it is because of the Left while the Left says its successor has done worse than what it had done. There will be no way out till an economic revival is authored in West Bengal. At the moment, it's only hollow politics which is reigning supreme and it is not going to spare even the youth as we have seen in the case of Sudipta Gupta.
The Left Front is a dead force today. Even though Leftism as an ideology is an evergreen one. And the onus now lies on the non-Left political leadership of Bengal today to ensure that it follows a pragmatic route for the state's revival, both politically and economically. The task is challenging no doubt but statecraft was never an easy task.
All Bengalis who sincerely hope that their rich motherland get rid of this cycle of violence and progress towards a better future will at once ally with the Mamata Banerjee if she really proves her commitment. It was because of this that she was brought to power with a huge majority two years ago. But now, the dream has been shattered as Banerjee is found more busy bashing the Left from a position of strength, unlike earlier.
This must stop somewhere. Nobody will ever win this game of retaliation.