Friday, April 12, 2013

Bengal cries for help – Congress must now make the move….

The state of West Bengal is screaming for help. Help to throw out two murderous rivals, both making life miserable for the people of the state with their constant internecine war. Neither of these parties is interested in anything but protecting their own stakes; concerned neither about democracy nor about the security of its people or institutions. The state is screaming for a change – not the kind of “paribartan” they were promised and got – but a genuine one.

Just look at what all has happened in that state after Mamata Banerjee took over. Law and Order has gone from bad to worse. We now have a peculiar situation when the party tasked with maintaining law and order uses it to perpetrate violence. We’ve had a situation when the CM marched down the roads, entered a police station, and got two of her partymen released even though there were serious charges of violence against them. We have had a situation when the CM accused someone who asked her an awkward question of being a Leftist. We have a CM who shows scant concern for the rapes in her state, and instead prefers to brand it all a conspiracy against her. And now the thugs from her party are taking the fight to colleges and universities. Is this the paribartan she had in mind?

Not that the Left was any different. In its 34 years rule, all that the Left did was beat down anyone who dared oppose it. Abuse the institutions of governance to suit its own needs. Ensure that everything that democracy stood for was demolished and a kind of virtual dictatorship brought in instead. If things had not gone to the absolute pits as they eventually did, it is possible the Left would have continued ruling forever. Fortunately for the state, and unfortunately for the party, things went just a tad too far. And the people reacted; choosing whatever option was given to them. Now however, they are crying out for some genuine relief.

But who can they turn to? It is not as if the Left has suddenly been chastened. That they have learnt their lessons and will be able to bring about a genuinely good period of rule; when people are given genuine freedom from thuggery; where people can express themselves freely without being branded this or that.

Equally importantly, both the Left and the TMC have kept the economic policies of the state the exact same. The state continues to follow policies the world discarded decades back. Russia has become a true blue capitalist economy, and China junked traditional Marxist theories three decades back. Both countries have progressed impressively. So has India, which also junked outdated Leftist ideologies two decades back. Along with China and Russia, India is part of the vaunted BRICS grouping. But within India, Bengal is still stuck in the past. Stuck in an era that no one wants to remember. Stuck in an era which produced nothing good for anyone. The people of Bengal have not had a genuine option for some time now. Its time the Congress offered that.

Why the Congress and not the BJP? Because the BJP has an agenda which will be rejected outright by the 25% Muslim population of Bengal. The  BJP is a non-starter. Whatever one may complain about Leftist or TMC ideology, one thing the two parties (nor the people of the state) cannot be accused of  is being religiously orthodox and regressive. If there is one thing they have consistently rejected, it is religious bigotism. Relations between Bangladesh and West Bengal – have always been good. Language and culture have trumped religious divide. The BJP clearly has nothing to offer the Bengalis.

The Congress should offer two types of liberalization. First and foremost is economic liberalization. The pursuit of the free economy. The active encouragement to private capital. The unabashed support for policies of concession with the intention to lure the biggest names in industry into the state. Develop industrial zones and SEZs which act as magnets for investment. There is a lot that can be done to get investments and jobs back into Bengal; helping people move their focus away from wasteful politics to gainful economic growth. The other thing the Congress should offer is political liberalization. The freedom of speech. The freedom to own and adopt any political ideology. Basic law and order. Strengthen the basic institutions of democracy. And cleanse the state of the poltics of hatred and aggression.

By being forced out of the alliance with TMC, the Congress has no other option left in any case. What it needs is for a new leadership to take roots in the state. Youngsters with modern ideas; not merely youngsters who have grown soaked in communism. Youngsters who represent the positivity and inclusiveness of Rahul Gandhi; those who can change the state’s “hobe na” (cannot be done) culture to an Obamaesque “nishchoi hobe” (Yes we can).

The real truth is that the Congress has a great chance to enhance its otherwise shaky numbers in 2014. Bengal has 42 MPs. The Congress got only 6 in 2009. It got 6 in 2004 as well. If in the next 12 months, the party makes the right moves, it can double or even triple its seat count. That’s something the party should seriously mull over….

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