Tuesday, April 17, 2012

BJP and Congress have an opportunity in Bengal….

Thanks to the pathetic governance provided by Mamata in her first year of rule, and the extreme disenchantment of the people with the Left parties, a big window of opportunity has opened up for the two national parties – the BJP and the Congress.

More than anything else – and this is something the two national parties are perhaps still not understanding – the people of Bengal want a different type of “paribartan” than what Mamata has offered – they want modern economic policies. They have had enough of communism; communism that has seen the state slip behind a few decades in comparison to the other states. When they voted out the Left, most political pundits argued that the people were upset with the Left’s hooliganism. What I had always thought was that the people were upset with the lack of economic progress. Since the only option they had was Mamata, they voted for her. The last one year or so has shown that Mamata is probably worse than the Left – in every respect.

Mamata seems to be having some sort of a complex psychic problem. She imagines ghosts where none exist. When a professor put out some cartoons, she saw that as a CPM ploy. Now one of her partymen has issued some sort of a diktat that TMC members should not marry CPM cadres. More than anything else, Mamata’s media management has been pathetic. In any case, it would be rare to find a husband-wife combination with the two belonging to two different parties. Where then was the need to make such a statement?

But Mamata’s psychic problem goes much beyond mere wild imagination. She is exceedingly sensitive about her persona. She would ideally love to be cast as Ma Kali – the one who annihilated the hegemonic and cruel Left. That is why she took offence to the usual bashing up of politicians that agitated citizens engage in. The cartoons controversy is unacceptable in a liberal democracy like India. Media – with all its political baises and imperfections – is an important pillar of democracy. Media provides the outlets which help people express their ire against politicians. Mamata should have seen the cartoons as some sort of an early warning her people were giving her….the message contained was very serious. It’s the message that Mamata should have tried to read and understand without getting hassled and thinking that the CPM was out to get her. They don’t need to get her – she will get herself.

What next for Bengal is the main idea of this post. The CPM is stuck in a world of its own – refusing to change its economic views even though its patrons in China and Russia have almost completely shown their backs to Marx. Till the time the entrenched leadership of the CPM continues, one cannot expect any change in the party. That means that for the next 20 years at least, the CPM will continue hurtling from one poll disaster to another. Since the TMC is rightly accused of being even more leftist that the Left parties, there is no hope there as well. That is why; the economically liberal national parties should see this as an opportunity at establishing themselves in Bengal.

More than the BJP, it is the Congress that has the chance to resurrect itself. The Congress has been a liberal party – at least since 1991 when economic reforms were first launched. If its central government is being held back from more liberalization, it is because of the drag that Mamata is. The Congress must revive its organization in Bengal on the promise of a new world. A new economic order: more industrialization; more jobs; more IT companies; in short, a much more favorable and modern economic environment. If it did that, it is my bet that the people would prefer to vote for the Congress than either the Left or the TMC.

While the BJP does also have a good chance on grounds of its generally liberal economic policies (even though it is today sometimes taking a retrograde point of view – thanks largely to politics), it will suffer from its anti-Muslim imagery. Remember 30% of Bengal is made up of Muslims – and whoever they may vote for, the Muslims will never vote for the BJP. Not even if the party provides respite from the economic problems that the community faces. The BJP will have to woo the Hindu masses – which, thankfully for it, are not divided on caste lines like they are in the Hindi heartland. The BJP could offer an economically more rightist option, while sticking to its core Hindu philosophy, and this could well give it the legs it needs in the state.

If neither the Congress nor the BJP take up the opportunity, it will pass back to the Left. After a few more years of TMC misrule, the people will be forced to go back to the Left. After all, the only weapon that people have in their hands is the ability to throw out an insensitive incumbent. They will keep using that weapon even if it gives them no results – in the hope that one day, they will get someone better.

The real truth is that Bengal is crying out for faster economic growth; not more shared poverty. It wants to move away from orthodox, anachronistic communist policies that have driven industrialists away. It is extending an arm of friendship to both the BJP and the Congress. But are the two parties seeing this? Or are they just continuing to wage their war of attrition? What they do will determine not only their own future, but also the future of the Left and the TMC in Bengal….

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