Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has ceased to be the chief minister of the state of West Bengal and of all its people. By his own admission, he has become a partisan chief minister who only knows and nurtures the interests of his own party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist). If this is not bad enough, what is worse is that he is brazen about this fact. Mr Bhattacharjee came out in his true and original colours at the first press conference he gave after the recent exhibition of violence by the CPI(M) cadre in Nandigram. Mr Bhattacharjee shed all veneer of decency and openly declared that his party’s cadre were fully implicated in the destruction and show of power in Nandigram. He was shameless in admitting the failure of his own police force in restoring law and order in Nandigram. He declared that the parties opposed to the CPI(M) had initiated the violence in Nandigram, and the CPI(M) cadre had only “paid them back in their own coins”. As the chief minister of the state, Mr Bhattacharjee, without any qualms, spoke the language of vendetta. He did not speak of the people of Nandigram, but of “us” and “them”. Mr Bhattacharjee made it clear that he was speaking as the chief minister by making these pronouncements at the Writers’ Buildings. No other chief minister as chief minister has so brazenly announced that he represents only his own party and no one else.
As the chief minister of a state, Mr Bhattacharjee has admitted that the rule of law was dead in a large chunk of territory in south-west Bengal. He and his administration presided over this dissolution of the rule of law, and handed over the area to the CPI(M) to do as it chooses. Mr Bhattacharjee appears to be defiantly proud about this. He does not even realize the grievous wrong he has perpetrated by abdicating his responsibility as chief minister. He has also given license for violence to become a way of life in West Bengal. These are ominous signs because they reveal that the chief minister has very little faith in and commitment to democracy and democratic institutions. It is a sign of the fragility of democracy in India that chief ministers — and even some prime ministers — cannot rise above the pettiness of “us” and “them”.
Mr Bhattacharjee is wrong both in form and content. As chief minister, he cannot uphold the collapse of law and order and the violence of the party cadre. Moreover, sitting in the headquarters of the government, he cannot speak as a party leader. Mr Bhattacharjee has not only disgraced himself, he has also demeaned the office he occupies. His statements confirm the truth of the statement that under CPI(M) rule the distinction between party and government has disappeared. The sun set on West Bengal when Mr Bhattacharjee handed over his government to his party.