This is my first post that is going to show the other prominent side a Bengali is supposed to have – his/her political consciousness (apart from the cultural / romantic / nostalgic side).
Let me first mention in the offset about my introduction into the political scenario. My parents were never overly involved in the political process, though my grandmother was so at one time. Apart from being in a few committees that constituted the famed ‘local governance’ part of the Municipal Corporation, as well as on some Pujo committees, members of my family were never ‘members’ of a party. From the time I started forming opinions, I too never sought to join a party.
However, I was, as every middle class Bengali lad is at one point of time, attracted to the Left. Socialist ideals are unquestionably noble but, as I came to realize later on, quite utopic. Moreover, being hugely interested in history, especially twentieth century Indian history, I could not grasp completely the Left denial of nationalism and their emphasis on the “International” Communist Movement. They had their separate class of heroes, most of whom were undoubtedly heroic and great political philosophers, like Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, M. N. Roy, Ho Chi Minh, Deng Xiaoping et al. But their legacy was not something to be proud of – with leaders like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot taking “dictatorship of the proletariat” too literally for the comfort of the world and converting them to puppet Communist dictatorships. They despised something which I held dear to my heart, and felt proud of – democracy, Indian democracy, which has made Communists participate in elections and kept this incredible country together despite her death knell being sounded many times.
Hence, them, I could not completely connect to. With Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Vallabhbhai Patel, however, I could. I could almost feel their presence in the India that is there now, though vivisected in ’47. Their ideology, integrity and dedication in work, irrespective of whatever muck may be thrown at them (especially Gandhi and Nehru) is something that one has to accept. Most of the hatred towards them is due to the fiasco that the Indian National Congress landed itself in after Nehru. Of his daughter’s attempt to crush the very basis of India – what I held sacrosanct – Democracy, his grandson’s stupidity and the establishment of ‘families’.
Inspite of all this, their reiterations on secularism (though I doubt the meanings they give it), non-casteism etc. were logically acceptable. Traditionally, also, the liberal secular Bengali would see the INC as the only other option apart from the Communists. (Only the INC, the Communists and the recent TMC has ever held power in West Bengal, the Communists for a whopping 34 years, that too democratically (sic) ).
So, traditionally I have seen parties who, ideologically, believe in Communism or its variants, or simple democratic beliefs with immortal stalwarts as their ex-members (and sadly corrupt, myopic, power hungry and hunchbacked people as their current members) , or their stupid regional offshoots (I’m not mentioning the name of the last party… I have already written more than enough in this post to earn myself certain ‘epithets’ in present Bengal). I have also never ever seen naked casteism (thankfully almost absent in Bengal) or communalism (whose roots seem to have been uprooted after the tragic Direct Action Day in Calcutta. Calcutta was quite peaceful during ’84, in no small measure due to Jyoti Basu, Calcutta’s trade unions and her taxi unions, as well as in ’92 due to proper police action. ) Although part of a religious family, I have never seen religion as a political ideology. Religion to me is extremely personal. The external shows are more social gatherings than having anything to do with religion. My posts on the Kurukshetroid War illustrate so. (hopefully!)
Hence, Hindutva as a political ideology has never attracted me. I have always suspiciously seen it as a divisive force, despite the integrity of most of its leaders and the good work done by its workers. More so after seeing views of some people here in Kanpur. My liberal background has never taught me to generalize and lay blame on communities, nor overly associate religion with state and political affairs. Our country has traditions to be proud of and uphold, undoubtedly. But some things are too inherently illogical for me. Hence, I am glad the party that was founded by one of the most illustrious Bengalis in post-independence era, son of the “Tiger of Bengal”, and an ardent supporter of Hindu nationalism, did not make inroads into my native Bengal.
How can a national Indian party have trivial things like temple constructions as a non-negotiable part of its manifesto? However, that does not mean I disrespect the leaders. Most of the party leaders are excellent orators, oratory sadly becoming a lost art in the current Indian political scenario. Their personal integrity and ability to hold steadfast to their views are commendable. But, I still hold to my views despite the current popularity of the party’s PM candidate. I respect the man for his policies and his charisma, his oratory and leadership skills, and somewhere down there, hope (know?) he comes to power, to give him a chance to show us his skills. But the party ideology I do not adhere to. Stoking passions on religion’s name has not worked for me or for Bengal in recent times and it will hopefully not do so in future. (I recall a story I have often been told in my childhood. I shall write about it in another post.)
So next comes the new big thing in Indian politics, a party like no other, founded out of a protest movement, based on clean governance and with a clean leader at its top. Their ideology is confusing, agreed, but their intentions are noble. In my opinion, they should be given a chance in Delhi as only then can I see their real worth. But still a small corner of my probably subconscious mind feels a bit hesitant. This corner is tired on seeing the recent scenario in Bengal, how the current rulers are dragging her back. This corner was happy on seeing the upheaval in 2011, despite a few apprehensions, but is now seeing, fully exposed, the mistakes of ‘negative voting’ instead of ‘positive voting’. The same happened in ’71 Lok Sabha, with feisty Indira, in ’84 with Rajiv’s sympathy vote and in 2011 in Bengal. People voted against the Communists, not for the Lady. And so we have a vision-less, myopic, vengeful government in Bengal. I fear the case to be so in Delhi, people voting against the two national parties would bring a vision-less Assembly. Or worse, the eating away of votes by this third edge, would help the weaker party win. But still, my conscious mind wishes to see the Man in Delhi, so that he could gain a bit of experience and provide another pool of experience to the ageing Indian democracy. But one good thing that has happened in the course of affairs is that parties now will try and field honest candidates to at least contest straight-facedly against a party based on anti-corruption. India wins!
However, nationally, the party shall politically not make inroads, as State Assemblies and Lok Sabhas are completely different ball games. Anti-corruption cannot be a sole ideology. Education, economy, foreign policy, industrial policy, land policy, labour policy (Governments make and break on this!) internal affairs (Naxalites, statehood-demands) etc – I need information on these! And I strongly believe the Indian Parliament needs a Left perspective, as people like Gurudas Dasgupta (who incidentally survived the Red bashing in Bengal in 2011, handsomely) need to be down there to make sure the policies the country decides are pro-people (at least that’s what they should do, no comments on their actual work…). Besides, Indian Communists, very very different from Communists the world over, might have learnt some lessons after Kerala and West Bengal thrashings. So they just might behave well!
So that’s that, an outpouring of my current views. This after severe bashings by unlike-minded people whom I have unsuccessfully tried to convince. However, keep in mind my first post! And that morally, truth, equality and justice are something I shall always stand for.