Unite & revive Bengal

The massive victory of the Trinamul Congress in the West Bengal municipal elections has changed the contours of political discourse in India and calls for “out-of-the-box” thinking. In this context, I am proposing that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) calls for an all-party government under the chief ministership of Pranab Mukherjee between now and the May 2011 Assembly elections. The CPI(M) does not have to give up power as according to the Constitution they can continue to govern for five years. No one can push them out of power unless they themselves give it up or a huge law and order problem creates conditions for applying the President’s Rule that is enabled by Article 356 of the Constitution of India. On the other hand, they can invite Mr Mukherjee to become the chief minister of a government still dominated by them on clearly identifiable issues of law and order and basic development, both of which are in jeopardy in West Bengal.
I suggest this because this is probably the only way the CPI(M) can extricate itself from the present mess in West Bengal. Clearly, people do not want them to rule any more. And to ignore this situation saying that these elections were only in urban areas and the rural Bengal still supports the CPI(M) is false. Anyone travelling to West Bengal today would clearly see that the CPI(M) has lost its support base throughout the state and every day as it clings on to power it loses more chances of a comeback.
The major problem that the CPI(M) is going to face now is a possibility of a total breakdown of law and order and the rise of fascist forces in different shapes and forms to devour the party faithful. The mastans or the lumpens — who were dominating the CPI(M) in West Bengal of late to control election machinery — will all desert them and go on a rampage throughout the state. An exactly similar situation was created in Indonesia when more than a million members of the Communist Party of D.N. Aidit were massacred by the fascists, most of them supported by the angry public. In Chile too, a similar situation was created when the Allende government was overthrown. The Left forces have always been decimated by the fascists when they had alienated themselves from the people.
I consider this to be the major danger facing not only the CPI(M), but also the country as a whole, where the fascist forces can destroy the basic structure of our democracy. The official law and order forces would join the lumpen elements and take revenge on the progressive forces. Everything must be done to stop that possibility which would turn history back. But the CPI(M) would find it extremely difficult to face this situation alone. It cannot give up the government as it will lose all its control over the state machinery. But trying to keep the mastans within its hold would make them even more unpopular among the masses. If a new government is formed under its patronage with Mr Mukherjee, known for his administrative skills, as the chief minister would not only ensure to maintain law and order, but also bring back the development agenda, which the CPI(M) has been trying to push for the last few years. A one-year respite from the turmoil would give the CPI(M) the breather which the party needs in order to reinvent itself.
Will the Trinamul Congress support this proposal for such an all-party government for the next one year? A dispassionate analysis shows that the Trinamul Congress has everything to gain from this unless it believes that it can push out the Left government in the next few months. The chances of that happening are very remote and an attempt to precipitate that situation through law and order problems will make the Trinamul Congress increasingly unpopular. A much better approach for the Trinamul Congress now would be to consolidate its position from its recent victory and come out with concrete constructive suggestions so that the people of West Bengal would believe that it is not just a party to bring about change or “parivartan,” but is committed to a programme for carrying out the parivartan now in a most comprehensive and constructive way. The Trinamul Congress is not going to lose anything by waiting for one year and can only gain in image and popularity throughout Bengal. It is a challenge that only Mamata Banerjee could take up and win at the end. Even if she does not join the government, she should allow it to function with constructive opposition.
The Congress Party, of course, would gain from the suggested all-party government, as otherwise it will have to give up its turf totally to the Trinamul Congress. It is important for the Congress to realise a decimation of the Left is not in its interest and a revival of the alliance would be helpful at the Centre. The person who would probably be most effective is Mr Mukherjee himself. He has now reached the pinnacle of his career and to take a new line may be too risky to sustain on a weak structure of his Congress Party. But he is also capable of turning the tables and instead of becoming dependent on the CPI(M), he can make the Left so much dependent on him that can see the beginning of a new face of Congress-CPI(M) partnership. If he succeeds in that process to save West Bengal, to uphold law and order and the development agenda, he will become a name in history comparable to B.C. Roy. If this proposal of mine is acceptable then the call for an all-party government should come from the CPI(M) itself, so that it does not lose the initiative and retain its control over the situation, and the law and order machinery can give it due protection and it can revive themselves fully with a genius Left programme of development and democracy. I very much hope that these suggestions of mine will be examined carefully by all parties concerned.

Dr Arjun Sengupta is a Member of Parliament and former Economic Adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

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Calcutta, as it was known was

Calcutta, as it was known was the corporate capital of India. Today it is just known a the capital of refugees. No leaders compare to the Grand Man of Bengal politics, BC Roy, and there will never be another like him

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