West Bengal Assembly Polls are due next year. This may become a watershed poll, the first one after Jyoti Basu's death, and one that may push CPIM out of power after more than 33 years. In fact, it seems that all of India is waiting to see that happen. There is an expectation in West Bengal building up, because after years of misrule and stagnation, Bengal's moment may just come to join the party in India.
But this is still not certain, if newspaper stories have to be believed. There seems to be an ongoing tussle between the temperamental Trinamool Congress chief, Mamta Banerjee, and the Congress party. Ms Banerjee seems to believe that she is doing a favour by aligning with congress, when the truth is the other way round. And, while Ms Banerjee has been a political survivor in her career, no one can credit her with political astuteness. So, the odds are that she will cross the threshold and the TNC-Congress alliance will not last till the election. This will almost certainly mean that the CPIM will return to power for another term.
It is also a very real possibility given that recent cosyness of the Congress Party with CPIM, and the reported assurance from CPIM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury that CPIM will support the government at the centre if Ms Banerjee decides to pull her support. With 24 seats at the Parliament, the left has a slight edge over TNC's 20, and that should keep the current government in power.
The question is whether Congress will take the bet?
Over next few months, an interesting political game will be played out. On one hand, there is this very real possibility of pushing the left out of power in West Bengal after such a long time. But if this does not happen, the Congress government at the centre may become vulnerable, because Ms Banerjee will almost certainly pull the support and go over to BJP, and the UPA/ Congress government will become dependent on Left's support yet again. The leftists are not dependable allies, which they have already shown, and they will interfere in every government business and stall things. The current momentum of reform programmes will almost certainly disappear, and the government will live in constant fear of blackmail by the left which it did last time.
So, for Congress, it is a difficult decision to make. It is almost a balance between West Bengal vs India, and Blackmail by left and Blackmail by Mamta kind of a situation. One would possibly think that the course of action should be obvious - keep the government at the centre and let the West Bengal go to Mamta; because Mamta's blackmail isn't disruptive as long as her Party's corruption and craziness is tolerated. However, the Left's blackmail is extremely disruptive, and it is best to see them completely erased out of Indian politics by waiting a few more years of chaos initiated by Mamta.
However, I shall still think the decision is difficult because while the short term implications are so obvious, the long term implications are not. For example, the greatest threat to ongoing Congress rule in India does not any longer come from the democratic Left parties, but from Regionalism and Extreme Left movement. The democratic left in India is a spent force now, a thing of the past, almost a pressure group with vested interests than a political movement with any agenda. If the Congress makes a choice for Mamta, she will almost certainly win. A TNC rule in West Bengal then will almost certainly become a mob raj, where she will spare no effort to 'eliminate' the left threat, and unleash a reign of violence. Those who lived in West Bengal knows that TNC has all the mafia now, and a TNC rule will mean no less than a return to the political mayhem that West Bengal endured during the early 70s.
But this is more than an ethical problem arising out of such a possibility. To remain in power, TNC will then almost certainly take a Regionalist stand, and try to eliminate the Congress influence from the state altogether. The regionalism in Bengal runs deep, and it will be fertile ground of regional posturing after so many years of misrule and underdevelopment. In fact, I shall suspect, Mamta Banerjee will spare no efforts to portray Congress leaders, particularly the Gandhis, as distant imperious oppressors, as she keeps doing some of the time.
Besides, one has to realize that Ms Banerjee is aligned deeply with the extreme Left, who consider the democratic left raj as their biggest problem and consider, in more ways than one, Ms Banerjee as their poodle. She proved directionless and completely off-agenda in dealing with industrialization issue because she was manipulated in that position by extreme left parties. And, this is indeed going to continue.
So, in summary, Congress faces a long term strategic choice. They know that the democratic left has been humbled and they are facing an existential threat at this time. They may, to be optimistic, less disruptive this time. Besides, by allowing the Left government in West Bengal to continue, the Congress may help the moderates in the CPIM for the moment, and this, in turn, may lead to more sensible policy choices by the party.
Besides, from the long term perspective, letting Trinamool win will write off West Bengal Congress for next few decades yet again. However, the new Young Congress resonates well with Bengali youth, who are no less aspirational than anyone else. Leaving CPIM in power may just help pave the way for an eventual Congress rule in West Bengal in a few years time.
So, it is long term versus short term choice. The Congress had many long term choices recently, particularly in the UP, which has led to the resurgence of the party. It is time that the Party does it again and decides to go alone in West Bengal.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen was gui
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was, as
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
As India's democracy reaches a critical juncture, with a very real danger of a authoritarian take-over, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary is a perfect occasion to revisit the founding idea of India once again. There are many things in his politics that we may need to dust up and reconsider: Tagore's political ideas, because of his inherent aversion of popular nationalism and enthusiasm about Pan-Asianism and universalism, were outside the mainstream of the Indian National Movement, seen as impractical and effectively shunned. He was seen mostly as the Poet and the mystic, someone whose politics remains in the domain of the ideas rather than action. Tagore himself, after a brief passionate involvement in politics during the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, withdrew from political action: He never belonged to the political class, despite his iconic status and itinerant interventions, such as returning the Knighthood after the massacre of Amritsar in 1919.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.