Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Left Politics in Bengal by Monobina Gupta

India is never short of political problems and doomsday theories. One of the political theories that’s doing the rounds is whether the Marxist government in Bengal is on its way out. Monobina Gupta’s book Left Politics in Bengal analyses this issue approaching the Left rule in Bengal through its coming to power, 35 years of stay in power and its slow degeneration from a revolutionary party to a power-grabbing machine.

Monobina’s scanner hardly misses anything taking into account smallest of details and humblest of men and their contributions to Left’s deterioration as a party. She blames Left’s fall from grace mainly on two factors: its reliance on violence as a means of perpetuating power and its intolerance of dissent and dissenters. And attributes Left’s continuity in power despite its lack of performance to two things: a) subversion of the electoral process where elections are either rigged or people coerced to vote for the party; b) jingoistic speeches which always create an enemy to blame Left's failures and problems on. This has helped Left, she alleges, be seen as a pro-poor underdog fighting for the masses against imperialist powers who are constantly conspiring to keep a toiling people down who are led by the Robinhood party. She says they have used the Congress and the CIA alternately as the enemy. This creates a certain emotional bonding between the party and the people it leads where the people develop a sense of victimhood and sees the party as their savior. This has always been a ploy of the communists, she says. Infighting among various Left parties has also been a cause for concern. Being from West Bengal, I agree with her.

 To support her analyses, she cites parallels from history. Instances of Lelin and Stalin and their belief in violence to help a ‘larger’ cause find generous mention in the book.

Although Budhadeb Bhatterjee, the current West Bengal CM, has come in for criticism, Jyoti Basu the Left patriarch of Bengal has been praised for the most part. She interestingly details the hours in 1996 that led to the decision that Left wouldn’t be part of government formation at the center with Basu missing out on his opportunity to be the prime minister. She describes Basu as a pragmatist who mostly found himself in minority in his party.

On the other hand, Monobina doesn’t invest hopes in Mamta Banerjee, the leader of the main opposition party, Trinomool Congress. 

Although the language is a little heavy and impersonal with long sentences and journalistic approach, it doesn’t take away from the readability of the book. The paragraphs are sometimes packed with details that are so local to Kolkata that an outsider may feel a little put off. Initially the book may also read like a catharsis of bitterness about the Left. The overall narrative, however, is very gripping and anybody searching for an answer to why the Left continues to rule Bengal for so long will find it interesting.


Ellen said...

Thought I'd bring this here too, lest work keeps you away from my blog Lols! So here goes...
Dear Indra,

What a delight to have you here now. And if distance wasn't a problem, it would be a big pleasure and honor to have you with us in this blessed occasion. Thank you for liking the photos taken using the family's digital camera -- an amateur's humble effort Lols! The official photographs and video will be ready in a few days though. Can't wait to see it :-)

I hope all's well at your end. Have a lovely and blessed day. Thank you for coming by and for your comment. God bless you!

indrablog said...

Thanks Elen, for dropping by. I really liked how you are documenting your daughter's wedding. I will visit your blog more option to keep a track of things and see those good photos.

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