What Will The Death of Communism in Bengal Bring?


by guest
27th April, 2011 at 8:05 pm    

This is a guest post by Rita Banerji

Today is Election Day here in Calcutta, and could be a historical one for the state of West Bengal. The CPI(M) – The Communist Party of India (Marxist), that has ruled the state with an iron sickle and hammer, for three and a half decades, is said to be on its way out! People of my generation, who have never known a Bengal under any other influence, can’t quite fathom what this change might bring.

But there is an uneasiness that’s discomforting. There’s police everywhere, and para-military — in full battle gear, armed to the teeth, patrolling the streets, and directing polling booths. I suppose till India learns that democracy means the free and calm exercise of choice, this is how we will continue to vote! Since the Lok Sabha election polls, two years ago, when the electorate first indicated that they were weary of the CPI(M) and desperate for change, even if it means choosing the Trinamool Congress party led by the chaotic and highly strung Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal has been in a state of a virtual blood-bath. There’s news of abductions and killings almost every other day. The CPI(M) has no intentions of leaving without an all-out fight! Nine of the eleven constituencies in Calcutta have been declared “sensitive” for the polling period – meaning prone to violence.

Wishing to avoid the poll warriors, I was at my designated booth by 6.30 a.m. There were about 50 other people there, already, in line who probably thought the same way. My poll booth is an old, ram shackled, government school-building. All schools remain closed today as they double as polling booths. The voter’s line ran parallel to the water line – that is the line of people with buckets and plastic drums waiting to fill water at the municipal tap, which for some reason is located 6 feet directly in front of the school’s entrance. A woman at the water line, with about 4 big buckets in tow, smiled at me and said, “Remember to give the water vote.” I smiled back and asked, “Now who would that be?” She thought about it, and shrugged her shoulder, “Probably no one. We’ve waited 40 years for water, voting for it every year.” I asked, “Aren’t you going to vote?” She laughed. “No, I think water is more important.” The municipal tap does not release water again till mid-afternoon, and if her family wants water for the day, for drinking, cooking and cleaning, she’s got to get it now.

Mamata Banerjee has been hailed as the down-to-earth, friend of the poor, and saviour of the down-trodden, who knows what it means to be deprived, as she amply demonstrates by wearing her rubber bathroom slippers to the Parliament meetings. Oddly, that was just the line—the Robin Hood avowal—that brought the CPI(M) to power and kept them there for almost four decades. That, and a network of goons. A few months ago, a policewoman who had stopped a busload of Ms. Banerjee’s party workers at a cross-light so an ambulance could pass, was beaten up and gang-molested by the party workers for daring to to make them wait. The woman in the water-line, waiting with four buckets knows what she’s waiting for. The question is what are the rest of us waiting for?


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7 Comments below   |  

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  1. Kismet Hardy — on 28th April, 2011 at 12:20 am  

    I haven’t read this post because I’m on crack but I daresay I have a relevant tale. I grew up in bangladesh and while the idiots supported BNP (that’s not a joke, that’s the Bangladesh National Party), all the people I liked supported Jashod, which was the communist party. Assuming anyone cares, the reason I’m in britain today is because my brother joined jashod at university and just before president ershad’s martial law, at a time when dhaka university was better equipped with arms than your average cadet college,and my brother’s best mate got his intestines ripped out by the Jamaat-e-Islami for being a communist jashod, my dad decided we should up sticks and come here, so here I am.

    Too much information, but I still hope it’s somehow relevant, but I’m sure I doubt it

  2. Rumbold — on 28th April, 2011 at 9:42 am  

    Good piece Rita. I wonder whether or not Marxist parties will emerge in force elsewhere in India.

  3. Shamit — on 28th April, 2011 at 11:16 am  

    they already are in Kerala – but there they do not have the monopoly of power – in fact in Kerala – no political party has been re-elected to government except for once.

    That was when the government did massive developmental work – no wonder Kerala has the most educated population, average person are better off than their counterparts and unlike other parts of India – nepotism hasn’t taken root in the form of dynastic politics.

    Elsewhere the communists are nothing but jokers and in modern india they are a relic of the past.

  4. Kisan — on 28th April, 2011 at 11:39 am  

    #1, Interesting.

    Same violence of Jamaat and BNP continues to this day although fortunately now they’re on the back foot now.

  5. Rita Banerji — on 28th April, 2011 at 2:21 pm  

    @Rumbold — Shamit’s right. The “Communist” Party seems like a very confused — communist, socialist, Maoist, Leninist agenda in India. And their politics now are ultimately the same as that anywhere else in India — bureaucratic, corrupt, nepotistic. Where in in 70s Bengal’s communist party had been grabbing land from the wealthy and ‘redistributing’ it to the poor, in the last few years they suddenly wanted to woo India’s big capitalists — and so they were doing the reverse, grabbing land from the poor and giving it to the big companies. It is one of many things that brings their end really.

  6. Rumbold — on 28th April, 2011 at 8:19 pm  

    Rita:

    The Economist had an interesting piece on this too:

    http://www.economist.com/node/18587059?story_id=18587059&fsrc=rss

  7. damon — on 28th April, 2011 at 8:39 pm  

    I grew up in bangladesh…

    Kismet Hardy – Bangladesh is a duller place without you I’m sure. :)

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