A Series of Observations & Reactions Following The Recent Regime Change in W. Bengal

The Vanquished erstwhile C.M. of W.B., Buddhadeb
Around the middle of May 2011, a momentous event took place in W. Bengal, India. The ruling Left Front, mainly helmed by its by far the largest and most assertive component, the CPM, was summarily dumped out of power by the electorate during Assembly elections which were conducted over 6 phases during the previous month viz., April 2011. The results were indeed a tsunami of sorts because not only was the Left Front roundly defeated by the Trinamool Congress + Congress alliance which secured a 2/3rd majority for the 294 assembly seats which were contested but the entire top leadership of the CPM including the incumbent Chief Minister were defeated in the polls and lost their Assembly seats. Even in the run-up to the elections a regime change of such proportions was hardly envisaged by most people. Details of the results can be seen here.

The Resounding Victor, Mamata Banerjee being sworn in as C.M.
While there are scores of news reports, op-eds & expert comments on the whole scenario which can be browsed by the interested reader, what follows are some of my comments & observations on the topic, based on news reports & comments which may have appeared in the media or while commenting on posts & posted by my network of 'friends' in the social media. Since I am sharing the most relevant ones out of those here, there may not be a common thread which binds them & thus they may appear disjointed & staccato at times. Each comment should be treated as mostly independent of the others which precede or follow it.

Of course it doesn't matter now but per my wishlist Buddhadeb should be criminally charged for systematic gross financial mismanagement & misappropriation of allocated funds, leading to humongous accumulated debts & bankruptcy , for systematically fibbing to people & for infiltrating & destroying institutions like the police, bureaucracy & education. Good riddance to bad rubbish is all I can say about him.
Rabin Deb - Vanquished
This is of course entirely my line of thinking and, to be evenhanded about this, it should apply to all CMs / PMs irrespective of parties.
[ P.K. Madhavan aka Prakash Karat's reactions after the CPM's defeats in W. Bengal & Kerala can be seen here ]
 

Ashim Dasgupta - Fin. Min. - Vanquished
Nirupam Sen - Industry Min. - Vanquished
While one may get a party ticket & contest elections, when one becomes the CM / PM one becomes the administrator & the chief for all people concerned & not only for the supporters / cadres of one's party. One handles public finances and one is responsible & accountable for their proper use & deployment. One is in charge of instruments of administration which include institutions like the police, state administration, public educational institutions etc., They are there for all people and not for any one party and any CM / PM has to rise above his or her party & do the right thing for all people and for all such institutions. That is the basic assumption behind a true democracy irrespective of whichever model is followed.

The issue with apparatchiks like Buddho is that they wanted to grab power under a democratic system and then undermine democratic & state institutions in every possible way, pretending all the while that they are functioning well within the fundamental tenets of democracy. Surreptitiously, in a most cowardly & underhanded fashion he carried out all the hatchet jobs I have alluded to, as an intrinsic part of his party & the cabinet during the initial years and as the head of the entire apparatus for over a decade after JB. Try as he might to evade accountability & responsibility, he, by all rights, cannot & should not go unpunished.

Such punishment would be precedent-setting & would also serve as a signal warning to all CMs & PMs henceforth that governance is serious business and like any CEO, no matter whatever excuses one might trot out, one cannot evade responsibility at the end of the day. And, if someone can't take the heat in the kitchen, he/she always has the option to get out anytime they like.

India still remains a young, immature democracy. Precedents like this among other things will help to make it a more mature one.


I have nothing personally against Buddho because I don't know the man personally in the first place. However his emergence & rise as a political personage and as an apparatchik happened during my teenage years so possibly I have a greater understanding of what he (and his kind) is all about compared to many others who have mostly known him primarily as a powerful minister in JB's cabinet and someone who was tipped to and eventually did succeed him.

Despite his assiduous & canny attempts to reinvent his image and build up ' Brand Buddho' after taking over as C.M., I have good reasons to believe that a leopard does not change its spots and that this man also demonstrated during his tenure as C.M. his utter incompetence & cluelessness about governance, notwithstanding the very many excuses he got his apologists, lobbyists and friendly mediapersons to trot out on his behalf. If you think that's an unsustainable rant just check out coldly, clinically the key facts & economic & financial parameters during the decade of his rule compared to the two decades earlier. Just to give you one indication check out how the accumulated debt of USD 45 billion grew at a grossly accelerated piece during his tenure as CM compared to that of his predecessor's. Name me one major project that his administration directly took up & successfully implemented & completed timely during his tenure, particularly during the last 5 years or so. Go check out among other things, the scandalous & unconscionable handouts he made to ill-qualified, part-time & full-time schoolteachers merely to buy their support despite knowing fully well that many of them weren't even doing a proper day's job or were singularly unqualified to do their job.If that is any less deplorable than doling out cash-for-votes (which the CPM used to do anyway) convince me why it is so.
 
The average Bengali needs to guard himself or herself against the maudlin sentimentality, laissez-faire attitude & poor work culture leading to lack of accountability that has so settled in over the decades. As I've said in my comments elsewhere, I wish that every CM or PM is held accountable for atrocious governance & gross mismanagement of public funds & a beginning needs to be made with this apparatchik rat, Buddho. Shorn of their party bestowed trappings and their mindless, misguided ideological doublespeak I have a strong feeling that guys like Buddho are utter cowards and his bluster & arrogance would vanish if he is called to answer publicly for his many subversive acts of omission & commission leading to gross misgovernance & mismanagement of funds among other things.

Leaving him alone to scratch his ba**s & shuttle between Alimuddin St. & his Palm Ave. residence posing as a responsible opposition (how can he be one when he has not succeeded in getting elected as a MLA even) & as a 'studied intellectual' I feel will lead the average Bengali to forget the nightmare that he or she wants to get out of for good. If today people are happy with A. Raja & Kalmadi being held to account & behind bars for corruption how is Buddho's misgovernance & mismanagement of public funds any less heinous even though it may not have been for personal gains. And if the existing laws of the land do not quite allow for a prosecution for the kind of 'crimes' he has committed let him be tasked at least with explaining a lot that has happened over the 3 decades of CPM misrule for much of which he was either an important cabinet minister or the C.M. I am fairly convinced that if he is pinned down with specific facts & figures & told to cut out all his doublespeak & mindless bullshit he will finally be in utter panic and will have little or no explanation to offer. And if the proceedings are publicly televised, even though a conviction may not be possible under the circumstances, I am fairly confident that eventually people may get to see Buddho wetting his dhoti in full view of the cameras which should then remain as the enduring image of what the Communists of W. Bengal finally achieved at the end of it all.

Amit Mitra, the new Finance Minister, TMC
Manish Gupta erstwhile Chief Secy. defeated Buddhadeb



 











[ Ramachandra Guha on the history of Communism & Communists in India can be read here ]


Interesting point of view by old friend Ram. While he is a historian, I must say that I am a great believer in the lessons of history myself. To his sui generis I would add a caveat however. 'Didi' may succeed or fail & as of now, objectively speaking, the odds in favour of her failing seem higher than that of her succeeding. If she does fail, the people of W.Bengal surely need to find alternatives since, having lost a lot of time, they can't afford to lose any more lest the ever-speeding vehicle of progress & development leaves them irrevocably behind. However the alternative has to be someone- new or old, national or regional - other than the Communists, more specifically the CPM primarily because a leopard can disguise for a while but can't change its spots. They should keep in mind the East European or the erstwhile Soviet Union models of political development, no doubt within a democratic framework. If given their maudlin sentimentality & utopian socialist inclinations they fall into the arms of the communists again they can be truly said to have performed that most difficult of feats viz., buggering themselves with their very own tools. ;)

 As I've said in my comments earlier, Mamata Banerjee may succeed or fail, though it is important for the people of W. Bengal that she succeeds because they have a lot of catching-up to do to get on the bus of progress, development & prosperity that much of the rest of India has already boarded.

My only contention is that if she fails then the people of W. Bengal must quickly look for other alternatives, be they local, regional or national. In no case should they go back and embrace the Communists again because that will be a truly regressive & disastrous step.

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