Shame does not come easy to those who lack a modicum of self-consciousness. Thus it will be a surprise if the chief minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, is ashamed of what he did on Monday. He spoke at a rally organized by the Students’ Federation of India. There is nothing shameful per se in this since Mr Bhattacharjee is a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the parent body of the SFI. What is noteworthy is that the SFI rally was held on a working day and on one of the busiest thoroughfares of the city. The rally threw traffic out of gear in the centre of the city. It was the classic Calcutta sight: traffic at a standstill and people inconvenienced by a political rally called by communists. Mr Bhattacharjee’s appearance in such a rally was like a throwback to his previous incarnation. The post-election avatar of Mr Bhattacharjee to which people have got used to is the one that asks the police not to allow any rallies or processions to obstruct traffic. It is the avatar that speaks to project Calcutta as an investor-friendly destination where things happen and things move. In one move, Mr Bhattacharjee has destroyed this image. The new look is no more than a veneer below which is the old Stalinist comrade who believes that all men are equal but some men are more equal than others.
Mr Bhattacharjee’s directions to the police to disallow obstructions of roads was given in the context of a bandh called by the Socialist Unity Centre of India. But he obviously does not believe that the same instructions should be followed when his own party sponsors a rally or a demonstration which completely paralyses the city. This kind of double standards ill becomes a chief minister committed to building a new and vibrant West Bengal. Moreover, by participating in a rally on a working day, Mr Bhattacharjee also showed his utter disregard of the judiciary which had suggested that political parties should restrict their rallies to holidays. Mr Bhattacharjee is setting the wrong example to the people of the state. This is in large measure related to the arrogance of power which is like the CPI(M)’s second skin.