The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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First it was a Union minister, Mr Tapan Sikdar, and then it was a minister of the state, Mr Amar Chowdhury. First the chief minister expressed regret and the second time he described the assault as a coincidence. What is noteworthy is that there is no embarrassment, no shame that again and again all over rural West Bengal, activists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are creating mayhem. There is no explanation offered about the fact that party members openly carry arms which they do not hesitate to use. All these are examples of the state of governance in West Bengal and also of the irresponsible and arrogant way in which the CPI(M) shows its power. Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister of the state, known lately for his attempts to smooth-talk industrialists into investing in West Bengal, will have to rethink his map for a new West Bengal. Investors are proverbially wary of violence and of cadre who recklessly show their muscle-power. Mr Bhattacharjee will also have to review his police force and its intelligence network. Firearms seem to be readily available in the state and the police are none the wiser. Or is it the case that they are aware but cannot take any action because those who possess the arms are all members or associates of the CPI(M)'

Two very ominous things have become abundantly clear over a period of time. First, the CPI(M) believes that elections and their outcome can be determined by violence and terror. This is a belief that runs counter to all the ethics of democracy. Yet the CPI(M) continues to tomtom the assertion that it is an upholder of democracy and continues to participate in the democratic process. The other is Mr Bhattacharjee’s extremely fragile hold over the party. If Mr Bhattacharjee is moving in one direction, the party organization is pulling in another. Mr Bhattacharjee can say sorry and make blasé statements about coincidences but he has done precious little to stop the violence. It would be unfair to assume that the chief minister’s expressions of regret are insincere. But unless he backs his words with action, it will become increasingly difficult to avoid such an assumption. The last thing that West Bengal needs is a chief minister who is a dissembler. The smugness of the CPI(M) state leadership in the face of proliferating reports of violence perpetrated by the cadre is deplorable but hardly surprising for those who have knowledge of the CPI(M)’s way of functioning. It is not coincidence — and the chief minister would do well to mark this — that capital is still West Bengal shy. Mr Bhattacharjee can say sorry again.

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