FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
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- Published 5.07.08
Efficient governments are alert to their failings; inefficient ones are oblivious to theirs. It is not surprising therefore that the Left Front government that rules West Bengal — and has done so for more than three decades — is yet to come to terms with the two electoral reverses it has recently suffered. It is possible, of course, that senility — politics is a realm in which a week is famously a long time — has robbed the Left of its reason. When the panchayat poll results went against them, the Left pundits were quick to link it to the land acquisition policy, which followed the industrialization policy adopted by the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The municipal election results suggest that the Left, especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is losing ground in urban segments as well. This, for obvious reasons, cannot be explained by that deus ex machina, land acquisition. So the Left is floundering to explain its losses.
The bewilderment of the Left is rooted in its own refusal to acknowledge its myriad failures. This refusal itself is a product of the Left’s arrogance and smugness. In over thirty years, the Left Front government cannot point to a single sphere affecting the daily life of the people of West Bengal, especially in the small towns of the districts, where it has been successful in demonstrating efficiency. The condition of government-run hospitals remains unfit for any human being. Detailed reports and appeals have failed to wake the government up and make it initiate certain changes and reforms. Thirty years of Left rule have destroyed education, primary, secondary and higher. The CPI(M), which has always maintained a tight control over education, has made it into an extension of the party. It pursued, at one time, an anti-English policy that has produced a generation of Bengalis incapable of communicating in English. This has made that generation a non-starter in any activity outside West Bengal. The CPI(M) has attempted to cover up these failures with its smugness and with the use of terror and intimidation. People are reacting to all this, and if the warning signs are not read in their stark reality, the Left may well find itself in deep trouble, which is entirely its own creation.
It is ironic that the policy of industrialization is a recent addition to the Left’s long list of failures. If it had pursued this policy, however unpopular among certain sections of the population, it could have posted at least one achievement. But faced with opposition, the Left back-pedalled on this policy. The Left is thus visited with all the sins of industrialization without any of its virtues.
Alarm bells have begun to ring for the Left in West Bengal. Is it ready to hear them? The answer, if the past is any guide, is no, since the Left only hears what it likes to hear: a cacophony of its own making. The finger is moving though its writing is still not clearly visible on the wall.