West Bengal And The 'Sting Of A Cobra'
A summary of the West Bengal election campaign so far through some memorable quotes.
“Ek chhobol-e chhobi (One strike from me the cobra and they’ll be a framed picture on the wall)” by Mithun Chakraborty on 7 March at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Brigade Parade Ground rally in Kolkata has taken West Bengal by storm and expectedly, we have been inundated with numerous views and interpretations.
I believe it is best left to Mithun to explain his loaded statement. I will, though, dwell on this in the later part of this article.
Mithun’s statement has reminded me of numerous political quotes by luminaries over the years which are embedded as gospels of truth and influenced our intellectual discourse in shaping society then and progressively now.
This article, in a limited way, captures a few important quotes and their relevance to Bengal purely from the governance and political aspects.
“The government who robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”
This quote of George Bernard Shaw a century back is a true depiction of the state of affairs in Bengal. If we look at the state’s post-1977 history till date, the narrative has been to strengthen the Pauls who in return played a significant role to bounce the political entities back to power again and again.
This has become more pronounced in the last 10 years as we have witnessed rampant corruption in every sphere of governance.
Siphoning off of public money, including grants of the Central government, besides various other corrupt practices (cut money, syndicates, tolabaji to name a few) have been institutionalised to benefit only a handful of party-sponsored goons.
These leaders unleashed a reign of terror — political murders, violence and booth capturing are a way of life for them.
“An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it.”
How right Bernard Shaw was, though in the present context, Bengal is partly an aberration to this famous quote, as thousands have perished over the last five decades.
Bengal stands out as the epicentre of political murders and violence, which continue unabated, causing serious economic damage, besides destroying the very essence and fabric of socio-political co-existence of our civilised society.
The five decades of governance has seen a steady fall from the highest standard of civility to an all-time low.
“That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government.”
This famous quote from Thomas Jefferson is an epic one. West Bengal stands out in present times where freedom of speech and liberty to pursue one’s own happiness has been stifled. The state is an example of where brutal force has been used to suppress the voice and legitimate aspirations of the people.
The question arises of instituting a new regime, which is indeed the only remedy for the people of Bengal now. Resurrecting Bengal will call for collective determination and fearlessness in our character to chart and shape the state’s progress as an economic, cultural and academic powerhouse that it rightfully deserves.
“Ek chhoble chhobi”
This statement by Mithun on the face of it appears to be laced with mischievous intent. Fortunately, it is not. To set the context of his outburst straight, we need to appreciate that West Bengal and its unsuspecting people have had to bear the brunt of misrule with all rightful benefits from the Centre being denied for decades.
Naturally, the need of the hour is to speed up the process of cleansing the wound inflicted by successive dispensations. The spirit of his outburst was the release of pain, anguish and anger with the current regime in Bengal, and in the same breath reflected a focussed determination to strike like a cobra to frame the sad state of affairs as history.
The last quote from Harry Emerson Fosdick indeed raises hope:
“Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”
With the much-awaited electoral process round the corner and with the fortunes of 10 crore people at stake, are we indeed knocking for extraordinary possibilities? History has witnessed that West Bengal rose phoenix-like whenever there was a need to do so. Will there be a tsunami this time? Come 2 May, and we will all know.
Partha Pratim Dasgupta is well known in the field of HR, primarily in the mergers and acquisitions space. He has served with reputed Indian and foreign conglomerates in leadership roles across various geographies and sectors. He has also mentored two fledgling IIMs in the recent past.
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