It was rightly apprehended. The panchayat elections in West Bengal are witnessing a bloodbath although the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) feels it has been a peaceful and fair affair. Party supremo and chief minister of the state, Mamata Banerjee, has blamed the state election commission for all that has gone wrong.
The opposition parties have blamed the government for targetting their candidates and complained that democracy has been raped in the state.
West Bengal is a sinking ship. The state is touching new low with each passing day, whether it is in terms of politics or economics. The government has been reduced into a mockery, the administration and police have been crippled while the opposition is an ineffective lot. Forget about long-term growth, the state is struggling to find a day's stability. Such pathetic is the situation.
The million-dollar question is: with institutional politics turned into a farce and very little hope of an economic recovery, where does the state go from here?
The answer is not simple but one thing is clear: West Bengal hasn't seen any change, it is actually in a transition towards that change. Now, it depends on the people of the state how long are they ready to witness the transition phase. Five years, ten years, twenty years or even fifty years? But the ball is in the court of the common people of the state. There has to be a new beginning somewhere because politically, the state has gone bankrupt and slowly, the political bankruptcy will make it go bankrupt in other crucial sectors as well.
The Centre can't afford to ignore the institutionalised violence in the state, either. If party politics becomes decisive in this issue and the senior party at the Centre observes the 'fun' as two of its adversaries battle it out in Bengal, then one must say that we are inviting even a bigger trouble. Mamata Banerjee or CPI(M) don't matter.
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What actually matters is that India doesn't want an unstable state on its border with a not-so-reliable neighbour. Instead of making selfish overtures at parties for electoral gains, why doesn't the Congress-led ruling alliance set strict timeframe for the West Bengal government to bring back things to normal or push to bring under central rule on grounds of a breakdown of democracy? How long can goons be allowed to have a free run and take the state and its people to a point of no return.
Returning to the role of the common people of the state, they must understand that as long as the polity remains polarised on party lines (if the Gujarati society is said to be extremely polarised on religious lines, the Bengali society too is, on party lines), it is impossible for them to see any hope for the future. Mamata Banerjee's misrule is basically the culmination of a process that had systematically destroyed democracy in the state over the last three decades.
The former Left rulers have ruined things to such an extent that their successors have little to do apart from celebrating their hard-earned victory. Yes, Banerjee's vindictive leadership and an unorganised party structure have made things worse.
The chief minister, instead of at least attempting the herculean task of a reversing the 30-year-old trend, found it convenient to carry on with the flow, leaving ther change-seekers frustrated and pained. She, afterall, never had the administrative skill to change the ground situation, even by a per cent.
This has left a big vacuum in Bengal politics today. Those who are thinking that the Left was better are also wrong for the same tragedy would have unfolded had the Left won the 2011 elections as well for it has also been hit by leadership and organisational crisis. The two national parties, the Congress and the BJP have little influence to force changes in the state.
So, ultimately it depends on the people of the state. Given the intellectual tilt of the Bengalis, who are also known to be 'progressive', expecting the emergence of a fresh political thinking is not out of place. An average Bengali youth takes much interest in political developments.
Why can't there be a consistent effort towards a third and effective way to move forward? But again, the question is: Has the ghost of socialism let free an average Bengali's mind so that it can think about a fresh beginning?
Yet not, one feels.