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Home > India > News > Columnists > M R Venkatesh

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West Bengal: Communists paying for their bad Karma

September 01, 2008

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"To the man thinking about the objects arises attachment, from attachment arises longing; and from longing arises anger. From anger comes delusion; and from delusion loss of memory; from loss of memory, the ruin of discrimination; and on the ruin of discrimination, he perishes" - Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita

Karma theory has been the traditional Indian way of rationalising the irrational, explaining the inexplicable. Simply put, it is the nature's way of effectuating a global restitution system. It correlates all our actions to its final consequences. Sometimes, this manifests after several generations, sometimes the very next day.

Further, it seeks to explain the continuous link life has with this world prior to our birth and after we cease to exist. It forces one to be considerate in their actions lest their deeds do not recoil on them or on their future generations. In this connection Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines it as the "sum of person's actions in one of his successive states of existence, viewed as deciding his fate for the next."

All these can simply be explained as an extension the Newtonian laws of physics and his explanation of cause and effect on physical action into life. In effect, it concludes that by all our action we create a cause, which in time will bear its corresponding effects.

One may be equally familiar with the modern chaos theory too � that which seeks to explain how a butterfly flapping its wings in Peru could cause devastating typhoons across Pacific Ocean in distant Japan [Images]. Or how the July 2005 nuclear agreement between India and US by a series of interconnected events led to the installation of Sibu Soren as chief minister of Jharkhand last week. Chaos theory and Karma theory are of the same genre.

Interestingly, what is true for individuals seems to be applicable to political parties now. The recent happenings at West Bengal only seem to fortify the view that our Communists are reaping what they had sown over the past three decades there. Karma theory in full work against the Communists! 

Politics of Bandhs and its consequences

To understand what has been stated it is pertinent to delve into the history of the Communist movement in West Bengal during the past three decades since they came to power in the mid-seventies in order to understand their Karma.

Readers may recall that in even in the pre-independence era, Kolkata - then Calcutta - was a pride of India and the engine of our independence movement. It is often remarked that whatever Bengal thought or did, the rest of India followed. And post independence too, Bengal continued to dominate our collective thinking in politics as much as in economics.

It was natural given the levels of intellectualism that prevailed then and coupled with the industrial climate, many business houses from distant Marwar [Images] in Rajasthan and even a few MNCs had their head offices in Kolkata.

But by the late seventies things changed dramatically after the advent of the Communists at the helm of affairs of the state. By a series of anti-industry policy, intimidation, pro labour approach, bandhs (general strikes) and gheraos (encircling a superior), West Bengal was crippled within a few years. The Frankenstein monster was well and truly unleashed.

That surely put Kolkatha on the international map, but as a poor city and one that was renowned world over for its penury. And this brought aid to the city, not investments. Readers may note that international aid and foreign investments are alternatives � one cannot have the luxury of both.

Given this scenario, leave alone FDI, even domestic investments was hard to come by. Worse still, the state witnessed a flight of capital for the past several decades. After all, people invest while there is prosperity, not where there is self-proclaimed poverty, state sponsored industrial unrest and of course a hostile government.

Similarly "City of Joy" too by its very portrayal of the city did not bring joy to this city, though it brought it international acclaim. It is indeed surprising the people of Bengal � one of the most intelligent in the entire country � did not foresee the economic consequences of all these negative representation.

The net effect was that by early eighties, the only international organisation operating from Kolkatha by then was the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa. Others, for obvious economic, political and strategic reasons, had fled.

Nevertheless, all this went very well with the Communists, the specialists in poverty economics.

In the process a new culture had come to play in Bengal � a culture of lawlessness, indiscipline and of course disruptive behaviour. Naturally, this had a tremendous negative impact on investment climate of the state. Where else in the world do you find the government abdicating its constitutional responsibility through a bandh and resume its responsibility the next day as if nothing had happened in the interregnum?  

And this happens in West Bengal virtually every other day. And if the Communists backed by the government do not call for a bandh the opposition would do. It would seem that the state and its people are perennially on dissent � sometimes with a cause, sometimes without but never without a pause.

The extent of the damage caused to the collective psyche of the state can be gauged by the fact that on the entry of some IT industries, members of the political parties, unused as they were to deal only with white collar employees, began to debate as to how to effectuate strikes in such business places!

The leopards' spots are infectious

Naturally, over a period of time the state became a laggard in every field, especially in the socio-economic areas when compared to the rest of the country. No wonder, Jyoti Basu, the former chief minister of West Bengal is often compared to Lord Shiva [Images] - the destroyer of investment, capital and the Bourgeois.

By the early part of this decade, the Communists too had realised the futility and folly of their approach. Surely their economic policies needed a revisit. And that was left to the eternal credit of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, the incumbent chief minister of Bengal to effectuate the Left's turn "U" turn. In turn, the chief minister began to play Brahma � the creator of investment, capital and Bourgeois in Bengal all over once again � exemplified by the invitation to the Tata group to set up their Nano plant in Singur.

Given their track record, it is indeed difficult to fathom that a leopard can even change its spots. No wonder despite the repeated assurances of the chief minister -- no less -- the Communist Party seems to be in its perpetual state of war with the government, little realising that it is actually in power in the state.

What else would explain the reported comment of the chief minister as opposing such disruptive practices as bandhs inviting a sharp rebuke from the party instantly and censuring him publicly last week? Surely the leopard cannot change its spots.

But this leopard's spots seem to be infectious. Strangely opposition seems to have come to have realised that the only way of toppling the Communist government in West Bengal is to adopt their own wretched practices of bandhs, disruptions and lawlessness.

Naturally, as Mamata Banerjee is paying in their own coin in Singur to the Communists, it is a pity that the people of state are the losers. When Karma theory is at work, like all other laws of nature, it carries no sympathy. Neither does it discriminate amongst its victims.  

One may also recall that the Leftists have often encouraged, albeit tacitly, illegal migration from across the border from Bangladesh in order to bolster their vote bank. Now press reports as well as some of my friends from the state suggest that the Nandigram [Images] movement is in fact shepherded by such illegal migrants.

What else would explain the simultaneous flare-up in Kolkata on Taslima Nasreen [Images], the Bangladeshi author, now in exile in India and the operation in Nandigram by the state's police in November 2007? Surely, the links are too obvious to be missed.     

Obviously, the Leftists are caught in a bind. If they use force against these protestors they would be doomed in the next elections. If they don't, surely Tata may exit Singur and relocate their Nano plant elsewhere, which means economic doom for the state.

Either way, it is not a happy situation for the Communists. After-all the farmers (who by the land reforms carried on by the Communists) and the illegal migrants from Bangladesh (for the reasons stated above) are perhaps some of the very few beneficiaries of the three decades long Communist rule in West Bengal.

Strangely, it is this vote bank of the Communists that is endangered by the successive events in Singur and Nandigram. The opposition realises that it can go for the jugular. Surely, they would intensify their protests hoping to fish successfully in troubled waters. A state used to such mass indiscipline is perhaps damned in the medium-term.

And this where the quote of Lord Krishna made at the outset becomes relevant. The Communists, by their antagonistic approach always run a risk of being overwhelmed by a downward spiral. The Leftists can be bettered by ultras, ultras by Naxalites [Images], Naxals by Maoists, Maoists by extremists and extremists by terrorists. And that is what is happening in West Bengal � the Karma of Communists is catching with them.

The author is a Chennai based Chartered Accountant. He can be contacted at mrv1000@rediffmail.com


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