Sir — Of late, the Trinamul Congress has been proving to be an extremely difficult and unreliable ally of the Congress at the Centre (“UP-stuck Centre bares Mamata differences”, Dec 31). The TMC’s erratic behaviour as a member of the ruling alliance is unacceptable.
To begin with, the TMC opposed the Congress’s proposal to allow foreign direct investment in retail. The decision to implement FDI in retail could only have been beneficial for the nation. The TMC’s volte face on the lok pal bill is also irresponsible. The party let the bill go through in the Lok Sabha, only to put up stiff resistance in the Rajya Sabha. It seems prepared to side with anyone, from the Left Front to the Bharatiya Janata Party, just to embarrass the United Progressive Alliance government.
Shortly after the bill was stalled in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O’ Brien, who is a member of parliament from the TMC, was heard condemning the government’s behaviour as “sad, sad, sad”. According to reports, most MPs from the TMC only function on the orders of the West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. Such a state of affairs is deplorable for any political party.
The other allies of the UPA are to be appreciated for not behaving in the way the TMC did. Perhaps it is time the Congress looked elsewhere for allies and severed ties with the TMC, both at the Centre and in West Bengal. After all, the TMC cannot remain in power for long if it continues to behave so inconsistently.
Yours faithfully, Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — It is most unfortunate that the Congress and the TMC have locked horns over the renaming of Indira Bhavan in Salt Lake (“CM not to rename Indira Bhavan”, Dec 31). Mamata Banerjee had earlier planned to christen it ‘Nazrul Bhavan’, much to the displeasure of the Congress party members.
The former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, and the rebel poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam, were both eminent personalities. The complex is worthy of both their names. As allies at the Centre and in the state government, the TMC and the Congress should be able to resolve their differences amicably.
The chief minister’s decision to keep the name, Indira Bhavan, intact while setting up a Nazrul museum was calculated to kill two birds with one stone. It was intended to appease the Congress and commemorate the poet at the same time. Congress members, however, continue to vent their ire against Banerjee and the TMC.
Yours faithfully, Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge
Sir — In his article, “Thinking secularism” (Dec 28), Prabhat Patnaik explores the concept of secularism in the Indian context. Secularism is a sensitive subject in this country. It can fetch votes or destroy the political fortunes of a party. After Partition, the Indian polity followed the principle of pluralism. Sikhs, Muslims, Christians as well as Hindus were brought together under one democratic structure. Pakistan, on the other hand, was established as a theocratic State based on Islam.
India seems to have upheld the principle of secularism and plurality. At present, the country has a Sikh prime minister. Not so long ago, it had a Muslim president.
Patnaik cites the definition of secularism as formulated by the philosopher, Akeel Bilgrami. According to him, “secularism requires that all religions should have the privilege of free exercise and be even-handedly treated, except when a religion’s practices are inconsistent with the ideals that a polity seeks to achieve”. The struggle for secularism cannot be separated from the struggle for social justice and economic rights for all. If a country follows the principles of secularism, it is bound to prosper in all areas of life. India must never abandon the ideals of secularism in its efforts to resolve misunderstandings among various groups.
Benu Kumar Bose, Calcutta
Sir — Prabhat Patnaik explores the gap between the lexical meaning of secularism and its implications in practice. Secularism may mean the complete separation of the State from religion. It could also mean that all religious faiths are accommodated in the fabric of the polity. Politics cannot be completely severed from religion. The political framework of a country must allow people to practice their various religions without any hindrance. Only such a country can be called pluralistic.
However, since religion cannot form the basis of ‘ethical’ conduct in a secular society, the collective struggle for human freedom must form one. As Patnaik points out, the vested interests of the individual come in the way of such a struggle. This is the effect of a divisive, capitalistic society, which splinters the collective by prompting people to follow individual interests. Only a collectivization of individual strengths can lead to a successful struggle against the forces of oppression.
P.B. Saha, Calcutta
Sir — After his fall from grace, B.S. Yeddyurappa, the former chief minister of Karnataka, seemed to have sent out feelers to the National Congress Party, fuelling rumours that he would join it. If Yeddyurappa had hoped that the NCP would help him return to power, he was mistaken. The NCP made it clear that it would not admit him to its ranks. Even if Yeddyurappa had managed to get back the chief minister’s post with the NCP’s help, it is unlikely that he would have held on to it for long.
Arun Malankar, Mumbai