Why It's Pointless To Compare BJP's Continuing Innings In Gujarat To CPI(M)'s Rule Over Bengal
The Communists were in power in West Bengal, uninterrupted, from 1977 to 2011.
The BJP first came to power in Gujarat in 1995 and has been the continuous incumbent since 1998.
'East is East and West is West, and Never the Twain Shall Meet' -- Rudyard Kipling
BJP's recent spectacular sweep of the Gujarat Assembly elections has prompted lazy comparisons to the CPI(M)-led Left Front's 34-year reign over Bengal.
But any such comparison is, even to a novice, shallow and superfluous. That's because there just cannot be any comparison to the long innings of the BJP in Gujarat to the 34 years of communist dictatorship in Bengal that left the eastern state pauperised, deeply in debt, bloodied and bruised, and a blot on India's democracy.
How The Left Ruined Bengal:
Economic Ruin: The Left, even before it came to power in Bengal, spurred militant and irresponsible trade unionism that drove industry out of Bengal.
The anti-capital mindset and attitude of the communists not only led to a flight of capital, but also resulted in investors avoiding Bengal like plague.
Closure of industrial units and other business establishments resulted in lakhs losing their jobs and being reduced to utter penury.
But this suited the communists fine since it became easy for them to rule over this large mass of unemployed people, and people eking out a subsistence living doing odd jobs.
Disastrous Education Policy: The abolition of English from the school curriculum proved to be a disaster.
The politicisation of educational institutions, with appointment of incompetent and unqualified party faithful as teachers in schools and even colleges and universities being central to this policy, resulted in a sharp decline in educational standards.
Education, which was once Bengal's backbone and had even spawned the famous Bengal Renaissance, suffered irretrievably.
The standard of schools, colleges and universities of Bengal saw a sharp downward spiral.
Brain Drain: The flight of capital from Bengal, and the fall in educational standards led to a devastating brain drain. Bengal's best and brightest were forced to forsake arid Bengal and seek greener pastures in the rest of the country and the world.
Thus, only the mediocre and below-mediocre remained in Bengal, and the communists found it easy to brainwash them and lord over them for so many decades.
Intolerance of Dissent: The deeply totalitarian mindset of the communists and their intolerance of contrarian views and thoughts led to brutal repression of dissent. No opposition to communist rule or ideology was tolerated and Bengal degenerated into a police state where all dissenters--be they academics, writers, journalists, artists, actors, professionals etc--were hounded and either beaten into silence, driven out of the state or even exterminated.
Dissenters and opponents were, to the communists, 'class enemies' who (according to Marxist doctrine) had to be 'annihilated'.
This, again, led to further brain drain and Bengal's academia, institutions and civil society as well as it's once-thriving intellectual spaces were left with only spineless people eager to please their political masters. The result was a degeneration of society.
Political Violence: The communists made Bengal notorious for political violence. The ruling (Left) Front's deep-seated intolerance of opposition spurred violence against opposition functionaries and supporters. Opposition activists (belonging to the Congress and then the Trinamool Congress) were physically attacked and maimed, their womenfolk raped, thousands were mercilessly massacred, lakhs of houses and business establishments belonging to Opposition functionaries and supporters were looted and destroyed, lakhs were driven out of their homes.
Bengal's opposition was left battered, bloodied and bruised. Bengal gained well-deserved infamy for political violence.
Subversion of Democracy: Bengal's ruling communists made a mockery of democracy's most important exercise -- elections -- by thoroughly subverting and rigging them.
The communists perfected rigging into such a fine art that their dirty tactics came to be known as 'scientific rigging'.
The communist book of dirty tricks consisted of intimidating opposition candidates and preventing them from filing their nomination papers, threatening and silencing opposition activists, filling up electoral rolls with fake names and deleting names of known opposition supporters, booth-capturing, and various intimidatory tactics on polling day like booth-jamming.
This ensured the victory of the communists in every election from the Panchayat level to the Lok Sabha. Since 1977, when the communists came to power in Bengal, the state has never witnessed a free and fair poll bereft of violence, bloodshed and controversy.
But even after deploying all their intimidatory and dirty tricks, the communists' vote share mostly hovered around 36 per cent. For instance, in one of its best electoral performances, the Left won 176 of 294 seats in the state Assembly, but its vote share was a little over 37 per cent.
Post-Communist Bengal: Though Mamata Banerjee rode to power in 2011 on the promise of change, the only change that Bengal witnessed was a change of regime. In fact, things only got worse on all fronts.
Now compare Left's rule over Bengal with the BJP's rule over Gujarat: Gujarat has improved tremendously under the BJP and is one of the most advanced states of the country.
Gujarat is one of the most industrialised states in India and has a flourishing economy. It boasts of world class infrastructure. It's public, and many private, institutions are the envy of the country.
On the economic development front, Gujarat has moved ahead in the rankings in the past 30 years. While the Communist rule made a virtue out of opposing big business setting up factories in Bengal, Gujarat welcomed them. Nothing perhaps exemplified this better than the move of the Tata Nano plant from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat in 2008.
Even on the political front, there is world of difference between the BJP's dominance in Gujarat and that of the Left in Bengal. While after 27 years of being the incumbent the BJP garnered 53 per cent vote share this time, and got about 50 per cent of the total votes even in 2017, the Communist vote share in Bengal always hovered around the late 30s.
The BJP's political dominance in Gujarat comes from a massive cadre network that gets into overdrive near elections. The Communist dominance, as mentioned above, came from intimidatory tactics.
Gujarat under BJP has increasingly urbanised itself whereas Bengal has little to show on the front except for Kolkata.
And the biggest testament to BJP's 'sushasan' (good governance) in Gujarat is the fact that lakhs of people, ranging from the unskilled and semi-skilled to the highly-skilled, have Bengal and are happily earning their livelihoods in Gujarat.
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