Friday, October 10, 2008

Singur 'Sing No More'

The withdrawal of the Nano project from West Bengal is the most depressing and disappointing news I've read in a long, long time, more so because I, like so many other right-thinking Bengalis, was hoping that the project would somehow be salvaged. Not that the project was a pristine one. Questions can justifiably be raised as to the way in which some of the land was acquired, and maybe on other policy matters as well.

Ms Mamata Banerjee could well have asked for a referendum to be held, or some such other legal and acceptable form of protest.But then, legal and sane is not what Mamata is all about. She is famous for her histrionics, for rushing in where angels fear to tread and for her pro-people paglami (madness). She has to maintain her brand image, and the image of West Bengal can go take a dive for all she seems to care. She is such a wrong sort of opposition leader in a state which desperately requires a strong and SENSIBLE opposition. It is simply not healthy for a democracy to have a ruling party, which by hook or crook, has remained in power for donkey's years.

The CPI(M) is an ugly party, period. In its cynicism, behind its doublespeak, under its smooth manipulation of facts and factions, in its ruthless and systematic mowing down of any protest, in its seeping down and eroding basic services like health/education and basic values like work culture, in its three decades of anti-industry-stance and recent pro-industry 'won't you come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly'-attitude, it reeks of ugliness. A little deodorant in the form of a smiling Buddhadev Bhattacharjee is not really enough to hide the stench.

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark (as Hamlet said) and Ms Banerjee is not the person to stem the rot. Instead of offering viable alternatives, she is getting sucked into the very rot which she is supposedly exposing. And caught in the crossfire between UGLY and PAGLI, the Tatas have left Singur, breaking a million hopes. I feel so, so sad when I hear people talking dismissively and derisively about West Bengal. It's a place where people talk more and work less, where no business can thrive because people are only interested in politics, where it rains bandhs and strikes…that is what I hear all the time. The red party flag has become synonymous with STOP WORK. The Singur project was supposed to change all that. It was supposed to herald a new era, a BENGAL SHINING instead of a BENGAL SHIRKING. That is not to be.

And the schism between my West Bengal, muddled and riddled with self-destructing Ugly-s and Paglis, and the rest of India, marching ahead with new-found confidence, has widened all that much more.