Maa-Mati-Manush and Mamata – Shoibayon Ganguly
“The world’s longest serving, democratically elected communist government” – the title used to be an intimidating, almost monolithic, awe inspirer. The party had successfully mustered the art of “winning elections and influencing outcomes”, making Bengal a Red Bastion where the term “anti-incumbency” made no sense, leave alone making a dent. Every institution was infiltrated, every family watched upon, every decision another mere excuse for the cadres to increase their sphere of influence.
Those mentally and spiritually in the opposition either did not dare to air their views or were coerced to turn their coats, surreptitiously selling their souls for a ticket to live. Like the sun that shone perennially on the Empire that had subjugated us to slavery, the sun, it seemed, was destined shine for ever on the communist crown.
Only one woman dared. They first tried to literally bludgeon her to submission. She did not wilt. They plotted to throw her out of the party, isolating her politically. The mass followed her like the rats of Hamlyn. They then proceeded to unleash the political coup de grace, reducing her to her lone seat in South Calcutta. Only to bolster her resolve, strengthen her grit.
Then two things happened that first planted the seeds that would one day become giant Sequoias and bear the fruits of change. The firing in Nandigram and the land grab in Singur. She incurred the wrath of hell, which showered on her fire and brimstone and yet she held firm in her belief, not leaving the sides of the oppressed and the down trodden. They painted her as one who is bent on pushing the state back into the morass of underdevelopment and industrial degeneration – conveniently forgetting the fact that it was they that had systematically turned the state into a quagmire of lost hope in the first place.
The allegations started becoming shriller, the name calling blatant and the accusations bereft of the least modicum of decency. They bared their fangs, exhaled their toxic fumes and forced politics to a nadir not seen anywhere before. Throwing the basic minimum courtesies to air, they went in for what they thought the juggler, calling her such vulgar names that even the most uncouth lowered their heads in shame. The more vitriolic their banters became, the greater became their distance from the reality of the ground. In their haste to divide the population between “us” and “them”, they succeeded in alienating themselves from a large section, that increasingly identified with the lady in the receiving end, choosing to hitch their wagons with the crusader for better or for worse.
In duress she never lost her cool and when she sensed the tides turning, when she could understand the pulse of the people, when she could see that the overwhelming majority had fallen in line – behind her – she did not show her ecstasy. On the contrary, she became increasingly mellowed, matured, even headed. Then the deluge began sweeping the past and the anachronisms into oblivion. She was visibly happy, some even ventured to say, relieved, but controlled and composed - as she showed a remarkable restraint. The “stormy petrel” had, almost as if unseen and unheard, transformed herself into a leader befitting her stature. The collective aspiration of her people had, it seemed, made her into what they dreamt her to be – molding her in the shape of their desired deity.
So the David versus Goliath story has come to a predictable end. The all mighty, seemingly invincible giant has fallen. Goodness has triumphed over evil. The people’s will has prevailed against odds that at first sight seemed insurmountable. Life has indeed imitated the fairy tale. But unlike the tales of yore, this one will not end with the little princess and her people “living happily forever and after”. For, the end of one fairy tale will blend into the beginning of another.
Yes, it is time we cut frame and enter into the adventures of Hercules - the cleaning of the legendary Augean stables. The task of providing good governance with a corruption free, efficient and effective bureaucracy that will live up to the huge, sometimes unrealistic, expectation will be a task, nothing less than Herculean.
Look at the odds staked against her – she will inherit a treasury that is bankrupt to put things mildly along with a huge burden of debt. The bureaucracy and the police – faces of the state that are most visible to the people have long been corroded and maligned to an extent that they are beyond repair. Educational institutions has systematically been infiltrated and destroyed. Agriculture is in a pathetic state having faced the apathy of the past and industry, the less talked about the better.
Militant unionism and a host of negative factors had ensured the flight of capital from the state about which successive governments had done precious little ensuring a total industrial stagnation. No industry worth its capital has come towards the state and today, Bengal is perhaps the most undesirable of destinations as far as industries go. Even the best brains of the state, sons of the soil, had taken to the wings choosing better chimes leaving only the desperate and the destitute behind.
But most of all, the last three and half decades have seen the image of Bengal being hit for a six. Not only is she labeled as a place where nothing works, but is also sneered at as a place that is corrupt to boot. Work Culture, or the lack of it, is widely pointed out as a bane that will hold back the state for years to come and no amount of argument against is capable of swaying the public opinion.
It is this mindset that has to be changed. The people of Bengal will need help to restore their belief in the self, in their ability to perform, and then excel. And with the faith firmly in place, the task of cleaning, of purging will have to be taken up in real earnest.
Is will be only through these steps that the case of Bengal can be presented before the world at large – asking them to come and be a part of the growth story that we all want her to chart.
The road ahead is by no means an easy one, for the people of Bengal have only their dreams. Dreams, that they have laid on their beloved “didi’s” feet. She has to tread softly, for she treads on their dreams!
At the end of the day, it is not the defeat of the regimented, but the victory of one single woman who dared. One who stood, head held firmly up against all the odds. The change that we are talking about, is in fact, the victory of this lone crusader. She has triumphed. She has won the battle. And there is no reason to believe that she will not emerge victorious in the war to regain Bengal her rightful place in the economic sun.